Restaurants of the 1950’s: Fast Food is Born
by Lori Ritchie
It was during the early 1950’s that The National Restaurant Association endorsed a new type of dinner called the “take home” meal. This was a meal that families could enjoy at home in front of their new black and white televisions.
McDonald’s unveiled their “Speedee System” at this time as well. Many restaurants had some form of drive-up window dating back to the 1930’s, but when the speaker system was integrated into the drive-thru system, the concept dramatically increased the popularity of fast food.
This article looks at the beginnings of some of the most recognized fast food businesses that originated during the 1950’s.
The first Dunkin' Donuts opened in Quincy, Mass., during this era. It was founded by 36-year-old William Rosenberg who first named his coffee-and-donut shop The Open Kettle. Rosenberg cashed in $1,500 in war bonds, borrowed another $1,000, and started a catering business that focused on coffee, pastries, and sandwiches to factory workers.
The entrepreneur served top-quality, whole-bean, Arabica coffee at 10¢ per cup while the competition charged a nickel for cheaper coffee. Rosenberg signed his first Dunkin’ Donuts franchise agreement in 1955. The donut shop boasts an impressive selection of 52 kinds of donuts and has established locations in 37 countries.
The 1950’s saw the debut of Church's Fried Chicken to Go. The first Church’s was opened in downtown San Antonia, Texas by George W. Church. Church was a retired chicken incubator salesman and had spent more than twenty years in the poultry industry. This experience enabled the restaurateur to keep his chicken prices low by reducing costs.
Fast-food restaurants at this time sold primarily hot dogs and ice cream. French fries and jalapenos were added to Church’s menu in 1955. There were more than 1.500 Church’s restaurants world-wide in the year 2002.
Denny's food stores began as Danny's Donuts in Lakewood, California during this decade. Harold Butler, 32, told his investors of plans to serve the best coffee and donuts, offer the best service and value in the industry, and to stay open 24 hours a day.
As the company grew, the menu grew to include sandwiches and in 1959 became known as Denny’s Restaurants. This food chain grew to become the largest U.S. full service family restaurant chain.
The first Burger King hamburger stand located in Miami, Florida sold hamburgers and milkshakes for 18 cents each during the fifties era . Founders James McLamore and David Edgerton each brought extensive restaurant experience to the creation of the Burger King chain.
The collaboration between these two entrepreneurs has led to a worldwide fast food store empire with more outlets than any competitor besides McDonald’s.
more articles by Lori Ritchie
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