Burger Franchise Firsts

By The Editors

Published on July 14, 2009

1921 the chain is born Walter Anderson and Billy Ingram open the first White Castle, in Wichita, Kansas, modeling the design on the Chicago Water Tower, one of few buildings to survive the 1871 Chicago fire. By 1930, there are more than 100 locations.

1937 big boy gets a brother Bob Wian, founder of Bob's Big Boy in Glendale, California, is one of the first to license out a restaurant concept to independent owners. The franchisees get to use both the Big Boy mascot and the original restaurant's signature double-decker burger.

1948 car meets burger Harry and Esther Snyder open the first drive-through hamburger stand, In-N-Out Burger, in Baldwin Park, California.

1957 birth of the whopper Burger King's quarter-pound flame-broiled beef patty with sundry toppings debuts as the biggest chain burger to date.

1963 heeeere's ronald! The original Ronald McDonald, played by Willard Scott, appears in a commercial that airs on a Washington, D.C., television station. When Ronald becomes the McDonald's "national spokesperson" in 1966, he is played by Coco, a clown from the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus.

1979 burgers get happy McDonald's introduces the Happy Meal, a colorful paper box filled with a kid-size burger, fries, and a drink. The inaugural edition has a circus wagon theme.

1984 "where's the beef?" The former advertising firm Dancer Fitzgerald Sample hires Clara Peller, a four-foot-ten-inch octogenarian, to star in a TV commercial for its client the Ohio-based chain
Wendy's. The ad runs for only nine months, but Peller's lament "Where's the beef?" becomes a household phrase.

2005 burgers go green Goodburger (which now has four locations) opens in New York City, offering additive-free burgers made from beef ground on-site. The same year, the first organic burger joint, Elevation Burger, opens in Virginia

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