Here Are the Fascinating Origin Stories of 13 Popular Fast Food Chains
We all probably have our favorite or most-frequented fast food restaurant. Maybe we tend to crave burgers more than tacos. Maybe our kids are partial to the types of toys usually found in a particular fast food restaurant’s kids meals. When we’re on the go, in a rush or simply don’t feel like cooking, fast food can be the perfect solution.
While we could all probably list off quite a few fast food restaurant names, we probably don’t know much more about them than our favorite items on their menus. For example, McDonald’s didn’t start out as a go-to place for hamburgers, and Wendy’s was named after Dave Thomas’s daughter, but her name wasn’t Wendy.
Read on for interesting and unexpected origin stories of 13 popular fast food chains.
We’re starting this list with White Castle because many people probably don’t know that it is actually the oldest fast food chain. Not McDonald’s. White Castle. It all started in 1921 when founder Billy Ingram started selling small square burgers he called “sliders” for just 5 cents each. He basically invented what we know as “carry-out.”
While White Castle invented carry-out, In-N-Out Burger invented the drive-thru. The first location opened in 1945, and in 1948 Harry Snyder debuted a 2-way speaker box so customers could order without leaving their cars. They could get “In-N-Out.”
McDonald’sKCAL 9 CBS LA
The first McDonald’s location opened in 1940, and while they served hamburgers, they were really focused on serving pit barbecue. Eventually, the McDonald brothers, Dick and Mac, realized that they were selling a lot more hamburgers than barbecue, so they switched their focus.
The first Burger King restaurant was called Insta-Burger King. It was a play on a grilling machine Keith Kramer and Matthew Burns bought called the Insta-Broiler. Eventually, they dropped the “Insta” from the name of their fast food chain, and started calling the Insta-Broiler the Flame-Broiler.
Originally, Taco Bell founder Glen Bell owned two different fast food restaurants. One was focused on tacos and was called Taco Tia. The other was focused on burgers and was called Bell’s Hamburgers. Eventually, Bell combined the names into Taco Bell.
Ever wonder who the five guys are behind the Five Guys fast food chain? They’re founder Jerry Murrell and his four sons. He had been saving for his sons to go to college, but when two of his sons decided not to go to college, Murrell used the college fund to start a burger joint. Originally, the five guys were his four sons plus himself. He now has a total of 5 sons, so he considers the five guys to be his five sons.
Fred DeLuca was only 17 years old when he opened his first Subway restaurant. A family friend named Peter Buck loaned him the money to get started. The name has nothing to do with the New York subway system. In honor of Buck, the original name was Pete’s Submarines. Eventually, the name was shortened to Subway.
Dan and Frank Carney borrowed $600 from their mother in 1958 and started their first pizza restaurant. They didn’t originally plan on calling it Pizza Hut, but their sign was too small for a longer name. It caught on and became the #1 pizza chain in the United States.
Founder Harland Sanders got his start as a short-order cook at a gas station. He wrote down the herbs and spices in his now famous fried chicken on the back of a kitchen door. He opened his first Kentucky Fried Chicken restaurant in 1952; although, it is now known as KFC.
Dave Thomas worked for KFC founder Harland Sanders and even ran four KFC franchises in Ohio. He modified the menu to fit the tastebuds of the customers and eventually opened his own burger joint. He wanted to name it after one of his children and eventually decided to name it after his daughter Melinda. Wendy is her nickname.
Many people thing the “R” and “B” in the name Arby’s really stands for roast beef. They’re wrong. It actually stands for Raffel brothers. The fast food chain was founded by Leroy and Forrest Raffel in 1964. The brothers thought customers would like an alternative to a hamburger, and they were right.
The sandwich chain was started by brothers Chris and Robin Sorensen. The name is in honor of their dad, a firefighter.
Angelo Baldassare, Peter DeCarlo, and Tony Conza were just teenagers when they decided they wanted to open their own sandwich chain. They didn’t name the restaurant in honor of anyone. Instead, they looked in the dictionary for a name that they thought would make them stand out.