The fast-food industry in this country has a long and storied history. The founders in this field built mega-empires based on the pursuit of the American dream, and in the process spurred a love-hate relationship that affects most people who live here (Photo Credit: McDonald's).
Given the ways that fast food influences everything from American pop culture to politics to dietary trends, it's fascinating to look back on the origins of the biggest players in the industry. One of the first fast-food chains to emerge was White Castle, founded by Bill Ingram in Wichita, Kan. in 1921; the design of the original White Castle was inspired by the Water Tower building in Chicago.
The novel and efficient system developed by the McDonald brothers at their original San Bernardino, Calif., location inspired a handful of other up-and-coming entrepreneurs to try their hand in the industry, namely Keith J. Kramer and Matthew Burns (founders of Insta-Burger King, which would later become Burger King), Carl Karcher (founder of Carl's Jr.), Glen Bell (founder of Taco Bell), and James Collins (the founder of Kentucky Fried Chicken). But certainly the person most famously inspired by the original McDonald's was Ray Kroc, who bought the company from the McDonald brothers in 1954 and turned it into the mega-corporation that it is today.
Take a look through this collection to see what the very first locations of your favorite iconic fast-food chains looked like and to learn about how those companies got their start.
- Molly Aronica, The Daily Meal
Dave Thomas opened the first Wendy’s location on November 15, 1969, in Columbus, Ohio. The following year, Thomas opened a second location of the brand, this time adding a drive-thru pickup window. From the beginning, the chain served up its signature square burgers and milkshakes. Slideshow: World's Deadliest Dishes Photo Credit: © Wendy's
Inspired by the McDonald’s brothers, Glen Bell opened a burger place with a similar model. However, once others started catching onto the idea, Bell decided to come up with a fresh menu concept. He began selling crunchy tacos with a combination of Mexican ingredients designed to please the American palate at his new restaurant, Taco Tia, in Downey, Calif. in 1954. Bell decided to expand the brand to include a variety of menu items and called the new concept Taco Bell. Slideshow: Top 15 Badass Women Chefs in America Photo Credit: © Flickr/Vote Prime
The idea for Subway was inspired by founder Fred DeLuca’s decision to open a sandwich shop to help pay for his medical school education. The idea to open the shop came from Dr. Peter Buck, who lent DeLuca $1,000 to open the original location of the sandwich shop in Bridgeport, Conn., in 1965 and became his business partner. The first shop was called Pete’s Super Submarines, and it was not until 1968 that the chain took on the name Subway. Slideshow: 15 Best Italian Restaurants in America Photo Credit: © Subway
The first Starbucks opened in Seattle’s Pike Place Market in 1971; the name was inspired by Herman Melville’s classic novel Moby-Dick. From the beginning, Starbucks has imported coffee beans from various locations around the world. In 1976, the coffee shop moved down the street to a new location. Slideshow: Products to Eat Before and After Working Out Photo Credit: © Starbucks
In 1940, brothers Mac and Dick McDonald opened McDonald’s Bar-B-Que in San Bernardino, Calif.; eight years later they decided to revamp the restaurant’s concept to cater to their most profitable menu item, hamburgers — they renamed the restaurant McDonald’s. In 1954, Multimixer salesman Ray Kroc visited the restaurant and was blown away by the efficient system developed by the McDonald’s brothers; he started franchising the brand and bought the company one year later. Slideshow: America's Most Outrageous Grilled Cheese Sandwiches Photo Credit: © McDonald's
In 1930 during the Great Depression, Harlan Sanders opened his first restaurant in a gas station in Corbin, Ky., called Sander’s Court & Café. By 1952, The Colonel began franchising his fried chicken business. Click here to see More Birthplaces of American Fast Food Photo Credit: © Flickr/Albedo20
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