Chapter 1

Chapter Summary

The Founding Fathers

This chapter addresses the role played by early restaurant owners who provided the impetus for the emerging fast food industry. One of the best known early industry pioneers was Carl Karcher who started his career in the restaurant business with a hot dog cart in Southern California. During this period, the early 20th century, a new American way of life was emerging--one that revolved around cars. The automobile was gaining in popularity, as was the “drive-in” lifestyle, which included drive-in banks and subsequently, drive-in restaurants. The latter set the tone for a new type of restaurant which eliminated all food items that had to be eaten with a knife, spoon, or fork, instituted an “assembly line” food production system, provided only a few condiments--ketchup, onions, mustard, and pickles—and allowed no substitutions to its limited menu. The McDonald brothers grew tired of the then typical drive-in restaurant and fired all carhops, waitresses, dishwashers, and bus boys, revolutionizing the eating and selling of food. Other successful fast food restaurants emerged including Dunkin’ Donuts, Burger King, Wendy’s, and Kentucky Fried Chicken. Many others followed as financial failures: Henry’s, Winky’s, Sandy’s, and Carrol’s. In the 1960s, McDonald’s, Taco Bell, and Carl’s Jr. engaged in fierce wars for market share and the fast food industry grew immensely. For example, from 1960 to 1973, the number of McDonald’s restaurants grew from 250 to 3,000. However, by the 1990s, Carl Karcher experienced grave financial troubles and went deeply into debt.