Fast food is a modern-day necessity, with many of us relying on it for quick, convenient meals. But did you know that some of the most popular fast food restaurants have been in business for nearly a century? In this expository piece, we’ll look at the world’s ten oldest fast food chains and how they’ve managed to stay relevant for so long.
While other countries and civilizations have had “fast food” for centuries, the modern concept of fast food started in the United States in the early twentieth century.
These early fast food chains were among the first to demand consistency across all of their locations to ensure their consumers had the same experience in every outlet.
It is also worthy of note to know that some of these fast-food chains invented some of the concepts used today, like the two-way intercom ordering system.
Oldest Fast Food Chains
Some fast food chains in the multibillion-dollar fast-food industry had humble beginnings and an intriguing history. If you’re curious about how it all began, join us as we explore the world’s ten oldest fast food chains.
1. Horn & Hardart
Joseph Horn and Frank Hardart found Horn & Hardart, the world’s first automated coffee chain in 1888 in Philadelphia.
They were essential in popularizing freshly brewed coffee, steadily expanding their menu, and opening many fast food chains around the world over the years.
This restaurant franchise began in 1888 as a tiny coffee shop in Philadelphia. They opened around a half-dozen stores across the country over the decade. Despite the fact that the restaurant has expanded its menu, it is still known for its high-quality coffee.
The owners were also instrumental in developing the first “automat” branded a “waiterless restaurant” In 1902 at their Philadelphia coffee shop.
Yoshinoya is one of the oldest fast food chains in the world and the oldest in Japan. Founded in Tokyo in 1899.
Yoshinoya is famous for offering gydon, a bowl of rice topped with small slices of beef and onion cooked in a gently sweet sauce. The network grew to 1,200 locations in Japan and 700 outside of Japan over time.
Yoshinoya, the Japanese culinary empire, began modestly in 1899 as a family-run shop in a Tokyo fish market. After over 117 years, the fast food chain is still committed to providing cheap, tasty, and fast food to its customers.
A&W, one of the world’s oldest fast food chains, was founded by Roy W. Allen on June 20, 1919, in Lodi, California, as a root beer stand.
Allen bought the root beer recipe from a pharmacist and later decided to start selling it on a hot summer day that coincided with a city-wide party celebration of the homecoming of local World War I soldiers.
Allen’s root beer was a smash, and two years later, he teamed up with former employee Frank Wright to create several root beer stands in the area.
Around this time, Allen and Wright came up with the moniker A&W, which combines the first letter of both of their surnames.
3. White Castle
Billy Ingram and Walter Anderson started White Castle in Wichita, Kansas in 1921. White Castle has always sold burgers, making it one of the world’s oldest burger fast food chains.
Although Anderson had prior experience running burger stands, when he and Ingram decided to launch White Castle, Americans were not as obsessed with hamburgers as they are today.
In fact, many individuals saw burgers as unhealthy and unappealing. Anderson and Ingram ensured that their first White Castle restaurant was clean and pristine to help shift public impression. They also ensured that their personnel were well-dressed.
Anderson and Ingram also added an inventive touch by grinding the beef in front of diners. All of their suggestions were successful, and White Castle began growing throughout the area within a few years.
4. Harry Ramsden
Fouth our list of the oldest fast food chains in the world is Harry Ramsden. Harry Ramsden, the iconic fish and chips fast-food company in Britain, started in 1928 in a wooden hut in West Yorkshire, North England.
In 1952, the business was inducted into the Guinness Book of Records for selling a record 10,000 portion of fish and chips in a single day.
Harry Ramsden capitalized on the fish and chips craze that spread over Britain in the 1910s by establishing the first restaurant chain in the country.
KFC is the world’s first fast food chicken chain, founded in 1930 by Harland Sanders, who began selling meals to hungry travelers from his gas station at the time. Sanders decided to buy the gas station across the street as his business grew, since it was more visible.
Sanders began serving fried chicken after converting the second station into a restaurant, and the rest is history. Sanders began looking for a technique to make fried chicken faster since it took too long to cook.
Sanders purchased one of the first commercial pressure cookers on the market in 1939 and modified it into a pressure fryer.
Sanders reinvented the fried chicken cooking procedure, allowing him to produce bigger quantities of chicken that was cooked through, and remained moist and crisp on the exterior. Sanders improved his famed Original Recipe of 11 herbs and spices the following year.
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6. Dairy Queen
McCullough initially sold his product from his friend Sherb Noble’s ice cream store. Then, in 1940, McCullough and Noble launched the first Dairy Queen outlet in Joliet, Illinois.
Initially It only sold soft-serve ice cream, which was invented by Dairy Queen’s founder, John Fremont McCullough, and his son Alex in 1938.
Dairy Queen is most famous for its frozen delights, particularly its distinctive Blizzard, but the company also offers hot dishes such as fries, chicken strips, and burgers.
McDonald’s, one of the world’s oldest hamburger fast-food chains, was founded by Richard and Maurice McDonald in 1948.
The restaurant company began as a barbecue joint, but they eventually expanded their menu to include chicken products, milkshakes, hamburgers, breakfast dishes, desserts, and soft beverages.
It is also the world’s second-largest private employer, with 36,900 locations worldwide. McDonald’s, dubbed “the largest American fast food chains in the world,” serve huge quantity of food at low prices and pioneered self-service by eliminating the need for staff.
8. In-N-Out Burger
In 1948, Harry and Esther Synder launched the first In-N-Out Burger restaurant in California. The Synders pioneered the renowned first drive-thru restaurant concept, which avoided long lines and provided speedy service.
In-N-Out Burger is a regional fast-food restaurant brand that declined franchising opportunities in order to maintain consistency and quality.
The restaurant is to be the first drive-thru where guests could put their orders using a two-way speaker system. They have a rigorous policy of only using fresh ingredients to make their hamburgers.
9. Dunkin Donuts
Dunkin Donuts, formerly known as Kettle Donuts’ Dunkin, is an American international coffee company and quick-service restaurant founded in 1950 by William Rosenberg in Quincy, Massachusetts.
It is one of the world’s largest coffee and baked-goods fast food chains, serving bagels, donuts, and baked goods as well as a selection of hot and cold beverages.
10 Jack in the Box
Robert O. Peterson started Jack in the Box in San Diego in 1951. Peterson already had a small restaurant franchise named Topsy’s Drive-In. Peterson’s restaurants had a circus theme by the end of the 1940s, which he carried over when he established the first Jack in the Box.
Jack in the Box was one of the first drive-thru eateries to use the intercom system, which Peterson bought from George Manos in 1947. Peterson built on the intercom system and created the first two-way intercom system, which is still used by every fast food drive-thru today.
Over the next few decades, Jack in the Box expanded until Peterson sold it to Ralston Purina Co. in 1968. Under Ralston Purina, Jack in the Box began franchising and by the end of the 1970s, the business had 1,000 outlets.
Today, Apollo Global Management owns Jack in the Box, which has become known for its wacky mascot and vast array of foods designed to satisfy any craving.
If you live in the United States, you’ve probably visited most of these fast food chains. They have stood the test of time and will most likely continue to feed us for years to come.
Some have even spread their success outside the United States to other countries. In this fast food chains you can get bit of everything, from burgers and fries to pizza, brunch, chicken, or even homecooked dinner.