With the introduction of the Sani-Shake machine and the Sani-Broiler around 1956, General Equipment Company was manufacturing most ot the basic machines necessary for operating a drive-in resturant.
|With the introduction of the Sani-Shake machine and the Sani-Broiler around 1956, General Equipment Company was manufacturing most ot the basic machines necessary for operating a drive-in resturant.|
In late 1957, Frank P. Thomas Jr., Donald J. Thomas, and Robert Wildman made plans were made to create a new division of the General Equipment Company called Burger Chef.
|Artist's rendition of a Burger Chef location like this one were often included in franchise materials sent out to attract potential restaurant owners.|
|The Pied Piper was an experimental food truck.|
In 1971, Burger Chef was poised to surpass McDonald’s as the largest hamburger chain in the U.S., with 1200 locations nationwide. Not too bad for a restaurant that was created as an afterthought to showcase the General Restaurant Equipment Company’s new flame broiler. In addition to their Big Shef (double burger) and Super Shef (quarter pound burger), the company introduced a Fun Meal, which included a burger, fries, drink, dessert, and a toy for the kids.
The chain expanded throughout the United States, and at its peak, in 1973 with 1,050 locations, was second only to McDonald's in the number of locations nationwide.
Burger Chef sued McDonald’s in 1979 when that company introduced their Happy Meal but ultimately lost.
|1966 Downtown Burger Chef in St. Louis, Missouri.|
But in 1982 General Foods decided to get out of the burger business and sold the chain to Imasco Ltd., the parent company of Hardee’s for $44 million. Hardee's let franchises and locations near existing Hardee's locations convert to other brands. Remaining restaurants that did not convert to Hardee's or new names and branding were simply closed.
|College students enjoying lunch at a Burger Chef restaurant.|
1970–1971 – "There's more to like at Burger Chef."
"Burger Chef goes all out to please your family."
1971–1976 – "You get more to like at Burger Chef."
1976–1980 – "We really give you the works."
"Open wide America, you never can forget."
"You get more to like at Burger Chef."
1980–1996 – "Nowhere else but Burger Chef."
The Complete Collection of Burger Chef TV Commercials
Compiled by Neil Gale, Ph.D.