The Neatest Little Paper Ever Read ®

Issue 974


How did some of our favorite fast food restaurants get their start? Tidbits has the history on these franchises.

• Roy Allen opened a root beer stand in Lodi, California in 1919 to participate in the homecoming celebration of the community’s World War I heroes. Three years later, Allen partnered up with a former employee, Frank Wright, (hence, the name A&W), and expanded into Sacramento. In the late 1920s, the company introduced curb service, and added roller-skating carhops in the 1940s. Allen started selling franchises to others in 1925, and by 1950, there were 450 A&W’s across the nation.

• White Castle opened its first restaurant in 1921 in Wichita, Kansas. Billy Ingram started the chain with just $700, offering slider-style burgers for five cents. The company sold its 50 millionth burger in 1941.

• Although the first McDonald’s opened in 1940, it wasn’t until 1955 that its first franchise opened in Des Plaines, Illinois. Fries were 10 cents and burgers, 15 cents. Today, wherever you stand on the U.S. mainland, you are never more than 115 miles away from a McDonald’s outlet. An empty plain in South Dakota is the only place that is more than 100 miles away. It’s estimated that 96% of Americans have eaten at McDonald’s at least once. One in every eight Americans has worked at McDonald’s at some point in their life. McDonald’s is Brazil’s largest employer.

• Sonic opened its first drive-in in 1953, in Shawnee, Oklahoma. It was called the Top Hat back then, and the owner, a former milkman named Troy Smith, added an intercom and carhops. Three years later, he opened his second location. If you’d like to open a Sonic franchise today, the startup cost ranges from $1 million to $1.6 million.

• Harry and Esther Snyder opened the first In-N-Out in 1948 in Baldwin Park, California. Harry set up a speaker system, creating the state’s first drive-thru. There wasn’t a dining room at In-N-Out until 1979. The small, regional chain operates in just six U.S. states, with 344 locations. Unlike other fast food places, In-N-Out does not franchise its operations, nor has it gone public, remaining in the Snyder family, now operated by the founders’ only grandchild. The restaurant keeps the menu simple with three burger varieties – hamburger, cheeseburger, and Double-Double – along with fries, drinks, and three flavors of milkshakes. In-N-Out was the favorite fast food of chefs Julia Child and Anthony Bourdain.

• Glen Bell opened his first drive-in in San Bernardino in 1954, called Bell’s Drive-In and Taco Tia. But the first of his famous chain, Taco Bell, didn’t open until 1962. Bell sold his first franchise two years later, and by 1967, there were 100 Taco Bell’s. The company went public went public in 1970 when there were 325 restaurants. Glen Bell sold 868 outlets to the Pepsi Company in 1978. When the original Taco Bell was under threat of demolition in 2015, the company moved it to the lot of their headquarters.

• In 1965, 17-year-old Bridgeport, Connecticut Fred DeLuca borrowed $1,000 from a family friend, Dr. Peter Buck, and opened Pete’s Submarines. The following year, the pair opened a second restaurant, and changed the name to Subway. By 1978, there were 100 Subways, and the 1,000th outlet opened in 1987. Today, there are Subways in 87 countries, producing over $9 billion in sales every year. At the time of his death in 2015, Fred DeLuca had a net worth of $3.5 billion.