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In 1876, the Fred Harvey Company began with the intent of providing quality food and service in honestly-run eating houses and hotels for travelers in the Southwest. Harvey was determined not to hold travelers hostage with the poor service and unappetizing food he had experienced. He imported fine linen and dishes to adorn the tables and used fresh ingredients for every meal. There was also the promise of freshly roasted coffee at every train station that had a Harvey House. From the inception of the company, the standard was to make the customer happy. Harvey was successful in achieving this goal and became the primary concessionaire for the Santa Fe Railway. Remarkably, this long-standing partnership was created on a handshake deal.
The company established strong ties to the local communities it served. Fred Harvey Hotels became centers of culture and gourmet fare for visiting travelers and local denizens. The company expanded to other railroads and destinations, eventually serving 13,000 miles of railroads either through hotels and houses or simply with dining car service. The Fred Harvey Company had considerable influence over the locations it served and was said to have made "the desert blossom with beefsteak and pretty girls."
This attention to quality service and food created a business legacy that would last for four generations of Harvey family members. In 1968, the Fred Harvey Company merged with Amfac (American Factories). In 1988 Amfac was purchased by JMB Realty, which became Xanterra in 2002. Several Harvey establishments remain in operation to this day in the Southwest, most notably the facilities at the Grand Canyon operated by Grand Canyon National Park Lodges and the privately owned and operated La Posada in Winslow, Ariz.