As we enter the holiday season, the thoughts of millions of people will turn homeward, often accompanied by feelings of nostalgia for days past. With Thanksgiving right around the corner, we’ve compiled a short list of places you would travel to if you wanted to visit the home of some very well-known and beloved food franchises, along with a little background on each of their humble beginnings.
Burger King – Miami, Florida
The modern-day Burger King Corporation was founded in 1954 in Miami, but has roots stemming from Jacksonville, Florida as Insta-Burger King in 1953. When Insta-Burger King ran into financial difficulties, two Miami-based franchisees, David Edgerton and James McLamore, purchased the company and renamed it Burger King. Today, Burger King is the second largest fast food hamburger chain in the world operating in 78 countries and territories.
Denny’s – Lakewood, California
Danny’s Donuts was founded by Harold Butler in Southern California in 1953. Danny’s Donuts became Denny’s in 1959 to avoid confusion with another closely named chain. The company utilized a strategy of taking advantage of an emerging highway system to grow nationwide, and has grown to have an estimated 1,700 locations since beginning to franchise their system in 1963.
Golden Corral – Fayetteville, North Carolina
Rejection from other franchisors in the early 1970s led James Maynard and William F. Carl to come up with their own franchise idea that ultimately became Golden Corral. The chain grew steadily from the start necessitating the company to “reinvent” itself in the mid-1980s by introducing larger capacity restaurants with expanded offerings. Now the company has an estimated 500 restaurants in 40 states.
KFC – Corbin, Kentucky
This one obviously had to be in the Bluegrass State. Kentucky Fried Chicken began in the middle of the Great Depression (1930) when Harland Sanders, opened his first restaurant, Sanders Court & Café, in the front room of a gas station. Six years later, Sanders was made an honorary Kentucky Colonel by then-Governor Ruby Laffoon in recognition of his contributions to the state's cuisine. Sanders sold the café in 1956 and focused on selling franchises for KFC. Eventually the café was renovated and reopened in the fall of 1990 as a museum with an operational KFC next door. The KFC brand is proved to be an international favorite, particularly in Asia, where it is the lead brand in parent-company YUM! Brands’ expansion efforts in China and India.
McDonald’s – Des Plaines, Illinois
McDonald’s originally was a BBQ restaurant located in San Bernardino, California run by the brothers Dick and Mac McDonald. However, the concept of the fast food chain that is popular worldwide today was established by Ray Kroc in 1955 in Des Plaines. The original building is long gone, but there is a re-creation in its place called the McDonald's #1 Store Museum with an operational modern-day McDonald’s across the street. Considered by many to be the model for franchising, McDonald’s serves more than 64 million people in 119 countries each day.
Pizza Hut – Wichita, Kansas
With a $600 loan from their parents, Frank and Dan Carney opened the doors of the first Pizza Hut on May 31, 1958. When one of the streets the original building was located on began being expanded to become a freeway, the building was moved and reconstructed on the campus of Wichita State University in September of 1986. This action was done as a tribute to the Carney brothers, who were students at the university when Pizza Hut opened. The franchise became the #1 pizza chain in the world in terms of revenue and units in 1971, and is still the #1 pizza chain today.
Subway – Bridgeport, Connecticut
In 1965, 17-year-old Fred DeLuca took the advice of a family friend when he was looking for a way to finance his education to become a medical doctor. That friend, Dr. Peter Buck, also offered to become DeLuca’s partner in the venture with a $1,000 loan. Pete's Super Submarines opened in August of 1965, later becoming Subway in 1968. In late 2010, Subway overtook McDonald’s as the world’s largest restaurant chain in terms of total units.
Taco Bell – Downey, California
Before he even founded Taco Bell, Glen Bell, had already found success in the food business. When he was 23, he began a string of chains that would be the predecessors of Taco Bell. The first was Bell’s Drive-In in 1946. In the amount of time between the opening of Bell’s Drive-In and the opening of Taco Bell, Bell would sell the drive-in, and later own and operate a number of restaurants in southern California, including establishments named Taco-Tia and El Taco. Bell sold these restaurants in 1962, and built the first Taco Bell near San Bernardino. In 2012, Taco Bell will be celebrating its 50th anniversary, and company executives have been touting major promotions to further increase the presence of the brand.
Wendy’s – Columbus, Ohio
On November 15, 1969 Dave Thomas fulfilled a childhood dream when he opened the first Wendy’s Old Fashioned Hamburgers restaurant in Columbus, Ohio where a car dealership once stood. The chance for Thomas to open his own restaurant was largely bolstered by work he had earlier in life. While working at a restaurant called the Hobby House, Thomas met Colonel Sanders, the founder of KFC and someone who would become a great influence to him. In 1962, Thomas was given the chance to turn around four failing KFC restaurants in Columbus. Four years later, he had turned the stores around, sold the restaurants back to KFC and received a percentage of the sale, which made him a millionaire at age 35. Wendy’s is named for one of Thomas’ daughters, who is now seen in advertising for the brand.