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Fast Food

There has always been fast food of sorts, but 1950s America put mass-produced, flavour-rich but nutritionally-poor fast food on the culinary map. It was the decade that quick-service restaurant chains began to open and franchise, heralding a seismic shift in the way we eat.

BURGER CHEF
Burger Chef was bought out by Hardee’s in the late 80s

BURGER KING
Burger King was founded in 1954. The Whopper was introduced to the menu in 1957. The burger has been on the menu ever since.

By the 1980s, while people still enjoyed McDonald’s over any other burger joint, Wendy’s was emerging as a competitor and Burger King was a very close second.

‘Happy Meals’ were a large factor in McDonald’s success, and eventually, Burger King came up with their alternative – Kids Club – the “Kids Only” meal which included prizes as well. Extremely popular were their Burger Buddies (little hamburgers and cheeseburgers that came in threes).

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CHUCK E CHEESE
In 1977, video games giant Atari opened the first Chuck E Cheese restaurant – a nightmarish “fun for the whole family” eatery featuring robotic animals and electronic games.

DOMINO’S
Pizza delivery chain Domino’s was founded in Michigan (USA) in 1960 and has become the largest pizza chain on the planet, thanks to the world’s insatiable appetite for takeaway pizza.

KENTUCKY FRIED CHICKEN (KFC)
Harland David Sanders (a.k.a. “Colonel Sanders”) was a grandfatherly southern gentleman who opened what would be the first in a chain of Kentucky Fried Chicken restaurants in Corbin, Kentucky in 1932 in a lunchroom behind his gas station. The restaurant was soon listed in Duncan Hines (a renown food critic) guidebook Adventures in Good Eating.

In 1934 Kentucky Governor Rudy Laffoon so liked Sanders’ food that he bestowed upon him the honorary title of a Kentucky Colonel. By 1937, Sander’s Cafe seated 142 customers who often came for the Colonel’s specially prepared southern fried chicken which contained a “secret blend of eleven herbs and spices.” His trademark formula (which the Colonel claimed could be found on everybody’s kitchen shelves at home) became the most guarded one in the history of advertising (outside of the Coca-Cola formula).

After 1950 the Colonel began to dress the part in his know famous white suit, black string tie and white goatee beard.

In 1964, Sanders sold the flourishing Kentucky Fried Chicken Corporation for $2 million. However, by retaining the “Kentucky Colonel” as a roving ambassador, and instituting his image as the corporate icon, the company was able to continue promoting its product as “finger-lickin’ good” chicken in the best tradition of Southern-fried home cooking.

One TV spot in the 1960s showed an angry housewife who kidnapped the Colonel, interrogated him in an abandoned warehouse and demanded he give up his secret recipe. Of course, he didn’t.

In 1975, Colonel Sanders was sued unsuccessfully for libel when he publicly referred to Kentucky Fried Chicken gravy as “sludge” and that it had a “wallpaper taste.”

While not representing KFC, the Colonel contributed money to a number of charities and community organization and at the age of eighty-seven, he testified against the mandatory retirement before a Select Subcommittee on Aging.

Finally, on 16 December 1980 Harland Sanders, died at the age of 90. He was buried in Louisville’s Cave Hill Cemetery. His legacy has now been franchised worldwide to new generations who still find his chicken “Finger Lickin’ Good.”

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The “down home” identity was somewhat compromised by PepsiCo’s $840 million buyout in 1986. The company was re-branded “KFC” – the word “fried” deemed inappropriate in an era of consumer health-consciousness – and integrated with other PepsiCo-owned fast food chains, Taco Bell and Pizza Hut

The Colonel Harland Sanders museum at the KFC Headquarters, located west of Interstate 264 (exit 15A) in Louisville, Kentucky, traces the history of the Colonel’s chicken empire.

MCDONALD’S
McDonald’s fast-food restaurants started to appear in America in the mid-1950s, but their most iconic burger – the Big Mac – wasn’t born until 1967. “Two all-beef patties, special sauce, lettuce, cheese, pickles, onions on a sesame seed bun” – If you said it in four seconds they gave you a free drink.

“Speedee”, the original McDonalds mascot (pictured below), lasted until 1960 when the “hamburger loving clown” Ronald McDonald took over his coveted position.

By the 1990s, nearly $30 billion worth of McDonald’s hamburgers were being sold worldwide each year.

PIZZA HUT
Dan and Frank Carney – two brothers from Wichita, Kansas – opened the original Pizza Hut in 1958 with a $600 loan from their mother.

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WENDYS
The first-ever Wendy’s opened in Columbus, Ohio, in 1969. In 1970, Wendy’s pioneered the first drive-thru window. It had a separate grill for quick service.

WIMPY
In Britain, the Wimpy Bar had appeared in 1955.