Remembering Burger Chef: Its Longest-held Location was in Michigan
Okay - before anyone starts arguing & complaining about the cars in the above photo: the picture was taken during a "classic car" show. Don't get huffy about the 1920s-30s automobiles that existed WAY before Burger Chef restaurants...
How many of you went to Burger Chef? How many of you miss it? How many of you preferred Burger Chef over McDonald's? Burger Chef’s heyday was from the 1960's through the early 1970's.
Burger Chef debuted in 1957 in Indianapolis, quickly expanding throughout the country; by 1959, fast food joints were a rage. Art Dolan Jr. gave Jackson, Michigan the 20th Burger Chef restaurant in the U.S. and the first outside of Burger Chef’s Indianapolis headquarters.
Unfortunately, the 15-cent burgers, fries, and shakes at Burger Chef became no match for McDonald's. Why? Money and promotional gimmicks. McDonald's had a bigger budget when it came to new characters, new foods, new locations, more & more commercials on TV and radio, etc. McDonald's had a gold mine with Ronald McDonald and all his McDonaldland buddies, and for awhile, all Burger Chef had was Burger Chef & Jeff. Eventually they were joined by some lesser characters, like Burgerilla, Burgerini the Magician, Count Fangburger the Vampire, and Cackleburger, the Witch (to see and hear the records by Burger Chef's 'Monster' characters, CLICK HERE!).
For a time, Burger Chef was actually more popular than McDonald’s, and they even came up with original ideas that were eventually used by McDonalds. Burger Chef's "Big Shef" and “Super Shef” were followed by McDonald’s “Big Mac” and “Quarter Pounder”.
Burger Chef was the first to package a meal for kids and called it the "Funmeal" in the early 1970's...then McDonald's, seeing the Funmeal's popularity, came up with the "Happy Meal" in 1979. Burger Chef attempted to sue McDonald's but lost the case.
Burger Chef was also the first to come up with the “works bar” where customers could slather on their own ketchup, mustard, mayo, and other condiments to their sandwiches.
So whatever happened to Burger Chef? In 1982, the company was sold to Hardee's, who turned many Burger Chefs across the country into Hardee's Restaurants. Burger Chef, Jeff, Burgerilla, Burgerini, Fangburger, and Cackleburger all retired to the ‘Old Burger Cartoon Mascot Home’ when the company sold out.
In the early 1970s there were 1,050 Burger Chefs in the United States, second only to McDonald’s. Jackson’s W. Ave. location became Burger Chef’s longest-held franchise. The final Burger Chef in the U.S. closed in 1996.
Take a look at some Burger Chef memorabilia below and remember what stiff competition McDonald’s once had!
Vintage Hamburger Diners and Michigan's First Drive-in Restaurant
50 Discontinued Soda Pops
LOOK: 40 Discontinued & Special Edition Kellogg's Cereals
Gallery Credit: John Robinson
Discontinued Post Cereals
110 Discontinued Coffee Brands
116 More Discontinued Coffee Brands
Vintage Cereals of The Battle Creek Food Company
Eight Fast Food Restaurants NOT in Michigan