Most people think the McDonald brothers of California started the fast-food craze in America, but in reality, it was the White Castle hamburger chain that actually started fast food history in America. J. Walter Anderson opened the first White Castle in 1916 in Wichita, Kansas, and people liked the cheap hamburgers, fries, and colas he offered. However, fast food really didn’t become common in America until after World War II, when Americans first began to fall in love with their cars, and had leisure time and more money to spend on eating out.
The McDonald Brothers
The real heroes of fast food history in America are Richard and Maurice McDonald, the two brothers who created the first McDonald’s restaurant in 1948 in San Bernardino, California. They wanted their restaurant to be more efficient and cost-effective, so they designed a simple menu in a small building without any tables, so people took their food and ate in their cars. By 1953, the brothers had decided to franchise their idea, and two franchises opened in Downey, California and Phoenix, Arizona.
As the McDonald’s became more successful, others began to take notice and copy their example to make their own fast food history in America. Keith Cramer started an operation in Florida that would turn into Burger King, and Ray Kroc, a blender salesman, was so impressed with McDonald’s that he asked the brothers if he could sell their franchises. He opened his own McDonald’s in Des Plaines, Illinois in 1954, and eventually he bought out the brothers and became the owner of the corporation. Kroc was the driving force behind the food chain’s fantastic growth throughout America in the late 50s and early 60s. Wendy’s was created by Dave Thomas in Columbus, Ohio, where the first restaurant opened in 1962.
As fast food caught on, and more people decided they liked dining in their cars; more fast food shops sprang up around the country. Jack-in-the-Box began in San Diego, California in 1951, and by 1960 it had spread out of California into other areas. Troy Smith opened the first SONIC Drive-In in 1954 in Shawnee, Oklahoma, Dunkin’ Donuts first opened in Quincy, Massachusetts in 1950, and the first Taco Bell opened in 1962 in Downey, California. All of these operations based their business at least loosely on the McDonald’s operation and then modified it to work with their specialty foods.
Today, fast food chains have spread all around the world, and have spread American culture right along with them. There are many more popular chains, like Carl’s Jr., Arby’s, Domino’s and Dairy Queen, indicating that fast food isn’t always about hamburgers. In fact, pizza, Chinese food, and just about any type of food imaginable are now available for take-out at fast-food chains across the globe. Fast food history in America is really the foundation of fast food as we know it today, and that history has made millionaires out of many of the people who first stated the fast food concept.