While it’s not always good for you, it’s hard to pass up a meal at your favorite fast-food joint. Some of America’s most iconic restaurants are immensely popular for the convenience and prices they provide for their customers. But some of these restaurants took a little time to get established.
The men and women behind places such as McDonald’s, Dairy Queen, and Nathan’s Famous hotdogs worked hard to launch their businesses. While some of the original locations are still in tact, others have been replaced by parking lots and interstates. Read on to see how some of these hamburger and sandwich joints got started…
The Pizza Hut In Wichita, Kanas, Got Its Name Because ‘Hut’ Could Fit On The Sign
Brothers Dan and Frank Carney opened the first Pizza Hut in their hometown, Wichita, Kansas, in 1958. They used the word “hut” in the name because it was a short word that could easily fit on their sign, and the building itself resembled a hut. The original building was relocated to the city’s state university in 1986 where both brothers are alumni.
Chicago architect George Lindstrom designed the iconic Pizza Hut buildings we know today back in 1963. PepsiCo bought the business in 1977.
McDonald’s In San Bernardino, California, Started Out As A Carhop
Richard and Maurice McDonald founded the first McDonald’s in San Bernardino, California in 1940 and called it McDonald’s Bar-B-Q. It was a carhop drive-in for eight years before the siblings decided to focus on burgers and french fries. They then renamed it to simply McDonald’s.
The original location was on 1398 North E Street in San Bernardino, but it’s no longer in operation. The building is currently used as the headquarters of Juan Pollo Restaurants, and it houses a McDonald’s Museum. If you want to see the oldest operating McDonald’s, visit the one in Downey, California
Dunkin’ Donuts, Which Launched In Quincy, Massachusetts, Got A Name Change In 2019
A man named William Rosenberg opened a coffee and donuts shop in Quincy, Massachusetts, in 1948. He changed the name to Dunkin’ Donuts in 1950. He began franchising the restaurant in 1955, and in 1963 his son Robert became the CEO at just 25-years-old. The company’s 100th restaurant also opened that same year.
Baskin-Robbins’ holding company Allied Lyons bought Dunkin’ Donuts in 1990. In 2019, the doughnut chain was renamed Dunkin’ with a bigger focus on it being a “beverage-led company.”
The Original Location Of Nathan’s Famous In Brooklyn, New York, Hosts An Annual Hot Dot Eating Competition
Jewish immigrant Nathan Handwerker and his wife Ida started a hotdog stand in Coney Island in 1916. Ida was responsible for the hotdog recipe, while her grandmother created the secret spice recipe. The couple used their live savings, which was $300, to start their business.
The Handwerkers charged just five cents for the hotdog, half the price of their competition. There are now over 40,000 restaurants around the nation. The original restaurant is still in tact, and it’s the location of the annual Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest, which has turned Joey “Jaws” Chestnut into a famous competitive eater.
The Chipotle Mexican Grill In Denver, Colorado, Sold 1,000 Burritos A Day Only One Month After Its Launch
Chipotle Mexican Grill founder Steve Ellis attended the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, New York, and was a line cook in San Francisco before opening his restaurant in Denver, Colorado in 1993 at 1644 East Evans Avenue near the University of Denver campus.
Ellis’ father gave him an $85,000 loan, and they figured out he would need to sell 107 burritos every day to make a profit. One month later, he was selling over 1,000 a day. His original plan was to take the profits and open a fine-dining establishment, but he was so successful he concentrated on the Mexican grill instead.
The First Blimpie In Hoboken, New Jersey, Is Still In Operation
Three old high school pals opened up the first Blimpie sandwich shop in Hoboken, New Jersey, in 1964. Co-founder Tony Caza is responsible for the name after searching for similar words to “sub” and “hoagie.” He thought “blimp” was pretty close and added the “ie” for more pizazz.
The restaurant was an instant hit. The three men sold the first franchise sold to a friend in western New York for merely $600 in 1964. The first Blimpie in Hoboken is still in operation at 110 Washington St.
The Original Dairy Queen In Joliet, Illinois Is A City Landmark
Iowa-born John Fremont “J.F.” “Grandpa” McCullough and his son Alex created the soft-serve formula in 1938. They partnered with friend and customer Sherb Noble to create the first Dairy Queen restaurant in 1940 in Joliet, Illinois. Their new ice cream shop sold more than 1,600 servings in just a couple of hours.
The initial restaurant stopped operating in the 1950s, but the building still exists at 501 N Chicago St. and is a city-designated landmark. The business has been franchised since 1940, and Texas has more Dairy Queen restaurants than any other state. The first store in Canada launched in Estevan, Saskatchewan, in 1953.
Subway Got Its Start In Bridgeport, Connecticut, So The Founder Could Pay For Med School
Aspiring physician Fred DeLuca, 17, of Bridgeport, Conn., (pictured here) borrowed $1,000 from Dr. Peter Buck in 1965 to start a sub shop and pay for college tuition. Pete’s Super Submarines was shortened to Subway in 1968, and four more shops were launched. DeLuca gave up his dreams of becoming a doctor to focus on his successful sandwich business.
The North End restaurant in Bridgeport is no longer around, but there are currently more than 40,000 restaurants to dine at all over the world. In 2002, DeLuca received an honorary doctorate from the University of Bridgeport.
In-And-Out Burger In Baldwin Park Was The First Drive-Thru Hamburger Stand In California
Harry and Esther Snyder built the first In-N-Out Burger in the Los Angeles suburb of Baldwin Park, Calif., in 1948 at the southwest corner of what is currently the intersection of Interstate 10 and Francisquito Avenue. It has since been demolished to accommodate the interstate.
It was the first drive-thru hamburger stand in the state. Up until that point, carhops took orders and served food. Harry and Esther’s grandchild, Lynsi Snyder, is the current company president. Unusually, the company is not franchised nor public. Lynsi plans to pass ownership of In-N-Out to her children.
Jack In The Box First “Popped” Up In San Diego In 1951
The Jack in the Box website’s history page says, “Equipped with an intercom system and drive-thru window, the tiny restaurant served up hamburgers to passing motorists for just 18 cents, while a large jack-in-the-box clown kept watch from the roof.” Robert O. Peterson, a California businessman, opened the very first Jack in the Box in San Diego in 1951. The restaurant also sold a shrimp-and-fries meal for 59 cents!
Jack-in-the-Box has been expanding nationwide ever since, at least within a few hundred miles of its flagship location.
Chick-Fil-A Got Its Start With A Restaurant Called ‘The Dwarf Grill’ Located In Hapeville, Georgia
S. Truett Cathy opened a restaurant called The Dwarf Grill in 1946, in Hapeville, Georgia, that would later become one of the most popular fast food joints in America. Hapeville is a suburb of Atlanta and the Grill was located near the Ford Motor Company Atlanta Assembly Plant. Many of the plant’s employees ate there for lunch. It wasn’t until 1961 that Cathy found a deep fryer that cooked chicken in the same amount of time that a burger could be prepared. He then trademarked the name Chick-fil-A, Inc.” and the restaurant’s name was changed to The Dwarf House, which still stands today.
The chain was a staple of food courts in southern malls until expanding to stand-alone franchises country-wide. Chick-Fil-A is the title sponsor of the Peach Bowl and has roughly 2,000 locations as of 2016.
Rubio’s Coastal Grill Is San Diego Born And Raised
Formerly known Rubio’s Fresh Mexican Grill, the cuisine is described as “Fresh or New Mex” for its twist on traditional Mexican food, specializing in fish tacos. This comes as no surprise, as founder Ralph Rubio attended San Diego State where he was introduced to fish tacos in Baja California on spring break.
This inspired him to open up his own restaurant in San Diego with his first location being on Mission Bay Drive in the Pacific Beach area. Today, its headquarters are in Carlsbad, California, and as of 2013 has more than 200 restaurants in neighboring states as well as Florida.
Popeyes Failed At First
First opening as Chicken on the Run on June 12, 1972 in Arabi, Louisiana, founder Al Copeland originally intended to compete with Kentucky Fried Chicken. However, Chicken on the run soon failed just months after opening.
As stated in the company’s official history, they sold “traditional mild fried chicken [but] business was slow, and the chicken team realized they’d have to sell a spicier alternative to their standard chicken recipe if they wanted to impress flavor-seeking New Orleanians.” So, Copeland re-opened the restaurant as Popeye’s Mighty Good Chicken and began franchising in 1975.
Baskin-Robbins was formed in Glendale, California after brother-in-laws Burt Baskin and Irv Robbins decided to merge their separate ice cream parlors. Bakin owned Burton’s Ice cream Shop and Baskin owned Snowbird Ice Cream, which had 21 flavors.
When the two fully merged, they then had a total of 31 flavors, something unheard of at the time, and is now part of their famous slogan. The company was acquired by United Brands Company in 1967 and eventually went public in 1972.
Hunt Brothers Pizza Was Decades In The Making
Although Hunt Brothers Pizza first opened in 1991 in Nashville Tennessee, its inception can be traced back decades. It originated from four brothers, Jim, Don, Lonnie, and Charlie Hunt in 1962. They started a wholesale pizza route that they called Pepe’s Pizza.
They would distribute pre-baked pizza crusts and other pizza items to restaurants, bowling alleys, drive-in theaters, or just about any place that sold pizza. Although it took some years, by 1994 the company had over 750 locations. They then began opening up pizza shops in convenience stores for people who wanted something to eat on the go.
The Cheesecake Factory Started With A Compliment
Evelyn Overton decided to start her own business after the compliments she received about the cheesecake she made for her husband’s employer back in 1949. So, she opened a small cheesecake shop in Detroit, Michigan in the late ’50s, but let it fall by the wayside to raise her two children.
She later continued making and selling cakes to local restaurants which continued when the family moved to Los Angeles, where she started a wholesale bakery. After her son started a small restaurant in Beverly Hills, California in 1978, they added a menu of just cheesecakes, the first unofficial Cheesecake Factory.