Jack-In-The-Box Once Had A Completely Unexpected Name

Jack-In-The-Box is a fast food chain that might be best known for its odd mascot — you know, the clown with the very round head. Of course, it's also known for its variety of great foods under one roof, like hamburgers, tacos, jalapeno poppers, chicken tender baskets, a lot of breakfast foods, fajitas, salads, and much more. This chain was founded in 1960 (per Zippia) and as of 2018 had around 2,240 restaurants across the United States. Restaurant Clicks states that Jack-In-The-Box is one of the oldest continuously-operating fast food chains in the country.

At first, its menu only included 15 items, such as hamburgers, French fries, chicken tacos, shakes, cola, and root beer. But Jack-In-The-Box was once known by another name and can trace its roots back even further than 1960. So, what was this popular fast food place once called, and where did it all start? Let's dive in.

Jack-in-the-Box changed names twice

Jack-In-The-Box can be traced back to a San Diego fast food chain known as Topsy's Drive-In, according to Reader's Digest. That chain was started in 1941 and was later renamed Oscar's, after its founder Oscar Peterson. It was known for its circus-like decor and its mascot — a round-headed clown. In 1951, one of these locations was renamed Jack-In-The-Box, but it kept the decor and the mascot, employing two new concepts in its design — the drive-thru and a two-way intercom.

But why was it called "Jack-In-The-Box?" According to FOX News, it was because of the mascot — that big-headed clown. Oscar Peterson updated the decor for that first location, putting the mascot in an actual jack-in-the-box, and the name followed. Despite its childlike theme, though, Jack-In-The-Box decided that the best way to compete against places like McDonald's was to market to an older crowd, with an extensive and slightly more upscale menu. 

While the drive-thru was already being employed in other fast food joints, Oscar's was one of the first to use the intercom system, which was attached to the mascot's head (per Love Food). This became a trendy idea and all of Oscar's locations were soon renamed Jack-In-The-Box.

This marketing did work, and the chain is still going strong today, coming in at number 63 (out of 272) in YouGovAmerica's list of most popular dining brands.