Buy a Meal, Win a Car

Richi Ugai, the proprietor of the Palace Café and Hotel in North Platte, was an innovator when it came to advertising. In 1914, the June 26 issue of the North Platte Semi-Weekly Tribune explained the guidelines for the Palace Café’s Auto Contest. The prize: a Saxon automobile. The contest: spend money on meals or merchandise at the Palace Café—the more you spend, the more votes you receive in the contest. This innovative approach to marketing set Richi Ugai apart from his fellow café owners in North Platte. He was not afraid to spend money to make money.

This ad for a Saxon ran in the Omaha Daily Bee on August 16, 1914.

Richi repeatedly showed his willingness to improve the dining experience of his patrons by refurbishing the Palace Café almost every year and adding improvements on a continuing basis. He added a new ceiling for $1,000 in 1912 as well as a $250 Colombia Grafanola in 1916, a new $400 dollar range in 1913 and a $900 dollar electric mission piano from the Hershey Co. in Omaha. These improvements and items were all for the benefit of his patrons who continued to flock in droves to the Café to enjoy its quality food and atmosphere.

North Platte Semi-Weekly Tribune, June 26, 1914. To view in context, click here.

The auto contest was a success as it continued to draw people to the café. There were few rules, although current employees and their families were ineligible and there was a purchase limit on how much any one patron could earn in the course of a week. As the contest began drawing to a close, the North Platte Semi-Weekly Tribune gave a listing of the highest standing patrons. As of October 20, 1914, a man named John Lincoln had the most votes, with 878,425. The contest had ten more days until the wrap-up and the judges were not to disclose the final tallies until the end to ensure fairness.

Although it is unknown if John Lincoln ended up winning the contest, the next highest vote holder, F. Sandall, only had 693,300 as of October 20. The amount of business drawn to the Palace Café helped make Richi Ugai enough money to purchase the land on which the café was located. He then owned both the real estate and the Palace Café itself, which would continue an impressive advertising strategy for many years to come.

– Griffen Farrar, Research Intern, Historic Preservation

Become a Member!

Our members make history happen.

Join Now

You May Also Enjoy

How ‘Equality Before the Law’ became our state motto

How ‘Equality Before the Law’ became our state motto

Leap Year Once Viewed as Opportunity for Women

Leap Year Once Viewed as Opportunity for Women

Found at an Estate Sale: A Trophy from the Year Nebraska Banned Girls’ Basketball Tournaments

Found at an Estate Sale: A Trophy from the Year Nebraska Banned Girls’ Basketball Tournaments

About History Nebraska
History Nebraska was founded in 1878 as the Nebraska State Historical Society by citizens who recognized Nebraska was going through great changes and they sought to record the stories of both indigenous and immigrant peoples. It was designated a state institution and began receiving funds from the legislature in 1883. Legislation in 1994 changed History Nebraska from a state institution to a state agency. The division is headed by Interim Director and CEO Jill Dolberg. They are assisted by an administrative staff responsible for financial and personnel functions, museum store services, security, and facilities maintenance for History Nebraska.
Explore Nebraska
Discover the real places and people of our past at these History Nebraska sites.

Upcoming Events

View our new and upcoming events to see how you can get involved.

Become a Member

The work we do to discover, preserve, and share Nebraska's history wouldn't be possible without the support of History Nebraska members.

Latest Hall of Fame Inductee

The Nebraska Hall of Fame was established in 1961 to officially recognize prominent Nebraskans.

Listen to our Podcast

Listen to the articles and authors published in the Nebraska History Magazine with our new Nebraska History Podcast.

Nebraska Collections

History Nebraska's mission is to collect, preserve, and open our shared history to all Nebraskans.

Our YouTube Video Collection

Get a closer look at Nebraska's history through your own eyes, with our extensive video collections.

Additional Research Resources

History Nebraska Research and Reference Services help connect you to the material we collect and preserve.

Support History Nebraska
Make a cash donation to help us acquire, preserve, and interpret Nebraska’s history. Gifts to History Nebraska help leave a legacy and may help your taxes, too! Support the work of History Nebraska by donating to the History Nebraska Foundation today.

Volunteers are the heroes of History Nebraska. So much history, so little time! Your work helps us share access to Nebraska’s stories at our museums and sites, the reference room, and online.