It may be a little difficult to comprehend, but even the largest companies in the world started out small. All of the biggest fast food chains got their start as one stand-alone restaurant founded by a small team of entrepreneurs, and they all have fascinating histories and secrets we bet you didn’t know about.
We’ve been exploring little-known facts about some of America’s most popular restaurant chains – fast food and otherwise – for years, and today we’re compiling the most far-out facts from five leading fast food chains: McDonald’s, Wendy’s, Burger King, KFC and Subway. While it may seem like these chains have simply always been around, they have some of the most interesting origin stories in the industry.
McDonald’s was founded by brothers Dick and Mac McDonald in the 1940s and was turned into a franchise in the 1950s by milkshake machine salesman Ray Kroc, the subject of the 2016 film The Founder, starring Michael Keaton.
Wendy’s was founded by a cook named Dave Thomas, who became one of KFC’s most successful franchisees before selling his stores back to Colonel Sanders and using the cash to open the first Wendy’s, named after his daughter Melinda Lou, nicknamed Wendy.
Burger King got its start in 1953 as a restaurant called Insta-Burger King, which faltered in 1959 and was bought by two Miami franchisees, James McLamore and David Edgerton, who removed the “Insta” and turned it into the chain it is today.
KFC was founded by a man (you might have heard of him) who held jobs including laboring on the railroad and selling Michelin tires before opening a service station at age 40 that became known for its fried chicken.
And Subway was founded in 1965 by two young friends as a no-frills sandwich shop called Pete’s Super Submarines.
No matter your opinion on fast food or its impact on the overall health of Americans, you have to admit that these chains’ founders had no shortage of grit and determination, and that becoming as massive a company as these are today was no easy feat. Read on to learn five more fascinating facts about each of these legendary chains.