It seems like no matter when you were put on this earth; fast-food has always been a part of your life. Whether you’re Gen Z, a Millenial, or even a baby boomer, everyone has their favorite joint that’s been with them through thick and thin. If you’re curious to know which one was the ‘hot spot’ when you were fresh into the world, stay tuned as we list down 10 Fast-Food Restaurants That Were Popular When You Were Born.
10. McDonald’s – 1950 To 1960
McDonald’s is one heck of a success story. Everyone knows the world-famous Golden Arches logo. With 38,oo0 locations in over 100 countries, it would be pretty difficult not to be familiar with it. This one might be the most unsurprising item on this list, but one of the most important ones as well. While McDonald’s is still pretty much at the top of the fast-food chain, its heyday was definitely in the early days of the company. Back in the 1950s, even though McD’s was just starting out, it still started out with a bang. People all around could finally get a taste of what a fast-food burger experience looked like. Founded in 1940, it wasn’t until the end of the decade that the chain perfected its fast-food model – their Speedee Service System – delivering hamburgers faster and faster every year until finally, it reached perfection. It also wasn’t until 1950 that McDonald’s began franchising, meaning the entire decade saw exponential growth for the company. With new stores opening left and right, by 1958, McDonald’s had already sold 100 million burgers. And, when it comes to what the menu looked like back then, these were the years when new offerings like milkshakes made people flock to the restaurants. So, if you were born, or if your parents were born during these “golden years,” McDonald’s was the best around – and just beginning its reign of the fast food world.
9. KFC – 1960s
Another pretty iconic and renowned fast-food chain. After all, if we say “giant red-and-white-striped bucket filled with crispy fried chicken,” odds are you won’t be thinking about anyone but the Colonel. The one and only KFC began all the way back in 1930 in a Kentucky gas station. Harland Sanders first started cooking for hungry travelers. A decade later, he introduced the Original Recipe chicken to the delight of fast-food fans around the globe with the delicious, one-of-a-kind, top-secret recipe we all know and love today. However, the Colonel’s chicken didn’t exactly get a lot of recognition at first. It took a while before people really started to take notice, and it was in the 1960s that things really took off for the chain. In fact, it wasn’t until 1960 that KFC, who already had 200 locations at the time, really started to gain traction. The 11 herbs & spices recipe began gaining more and more popularity, and people began turning to KFC when in search of quality chicken. By 1963, there were now at least 600 locations across the United States. KFC was also was one of the first American fast-food chains to expand internationally, opening restaurants in Canada and the United Kingdom. The first Australian outlet was opened in 1968. Over the years, the chicken chain cemented its popularity in more than 145 countries, with a total of 24,000 restaurants. So, if you were born in the 1960s, KFC is probably where your parents and their friends went for their fried chicken fix.
8. Taco Bell – 1970 To 1979
The recent obsession with Mexican food didn’t start yesterday – actually, it was probably born back in the 1970s, when Taco Bell was the talk of the town. So, if you’re a 1970s baby and you share that same unexplained love for tacos, then this might just be the explanation you were looking for. Taco Bell started out in 1954 when Glen Bell, the founder of it all, began selling a variety of Mexican-inspired food. After it started franchising in 1964, it wasn’t too long before things really started to look up, and it became just about the most popular fast-food chain out there. People just couldn’t get enough of the stuff, so Taco Bell needed to broaden its horizons even more. The franchise really seemed to take off in 1975, as it expanded to nearly 700 locations. What started out as a tiny taco joint began spreading like wild, spicy fire all over the country and soon became the place to eat during the 70s. Amid all the ever growing franchise expansion, the 1970s was also the time Taco Bell welcomed one of the chain’s most popular items ever to the menu – the famous Enchirito. Soon, everybody was obsessed with all things Taco Bell. Obviously, today with all of the other crazy delicious menu offerings, the Enchirito looks like a small player, but back then, it was the next best thing. The combination of an enchilada and a burrito was the star of the menu and helped make Taco Bell the most successful chain of the decade.
7. Wendy’s – 1980
Just like McDonald’s, Wendy’s has been a fast-food staple for a very long time. Since first opening in 1969, the chain has steadily been gaining in popularity. Even though Wendy’s might not be as popular or as famous as that other burger joint with the clown mascot, it has still managed to attract its fair share of loyal customers. And for good reason. I mean, who else was serving up square burger patties? So, if you were born in the late 1970s or early 1980s, you happen to be born at a time when Wendy’s was super popular. In November 1970, Wendy’s was responsible for one of the greatest fast-food technological advancements of our time, the introduction of the first drive-thru window. This practically revolutionized the world of fast-food into what we know today. So, of course, after a feat this important, it goes without saying that the chain gained quite a lot of followers during the following decade. When 1980 hit, Wendy’s also hit a huge milestone. Because more people started going to Wendy’s, the chain needed to open more locations to meet all the demand. Well, in 1980, Wendy’s opened its 2,000th location, when only 2 years prior, they had already set an industry record by opening 1,000 restaurants in 100 months. Let’s just say 1980 was a big year for the establishment.
6. Burger King – 1981 To 1984
Just like the other classic, go-to burger joints (hello Wendy and Ronald) – Burger King has seen a thing or two since it first opened in 1953. I mean, it is called Burger King for a reason, right? However, it hasn’t always been fast-food royalty. It was originally founded as a response to McDonald’s raging success, thus, marking the beginning of the ongoing war between the two chains. What set Burger King apart from McDonald’s, though, was its unique grill called the Insta-Broiler. This grill allowed the chain to grow its following considerably and build its own menu. The Whopper, a quarter-pound burger with tomatoes, lettuce, mayonnaise, ketchup, and pickles on a sesame seed-topped bun, has been a hit for the chain for decades. It was first introduced in 1957, and from that moment on, the two competitors became friendly rivals… Or so we thought. It wasn’t until the early eighties that Burger King launched its infamous “Battle of the Burgers” ad campaign. If you were born during these years, you were also born during the official start of animosity between the King and the Golden Arches, and it was Burger King who struck first. The gloves were now off. The string of hostile commercials drew attention to the “poor quality” of McDonald’s cooking techniques and how superior Burger King was. From about 1981 to 1984, these commercials made Burger King the most popular fast-food chain.
5. Domino’s – 1985-1986
Today, you can pretty much get pizza from anywhere. There are thousands of different pizza joints from which you can grab a slice for dinner any night of the week. But, one particular pizza joint stands out from the crowd, or at least, it used to. Domino’s might just be your run-of-the-mill regular pizza spot today, but back in the mid-1980s, it looked like it could take on the world – and it did. Ever since it was first opened in the 1960s, Domino’s has been growing and growing every single day. And while it’s still a pretty impressive and successful chain nowadays, it’s certainly not as memorable as it was in the mid-1980s. By 1985, Domino’s became the “fastest-growing pizza restaurant” in all of the United States after opening its 2,841st store. It was also the year the chain opened its first store in the United Kingdom and on the continent of Asia, in Minato, Japan. After that, Domino’s kept on growing like a weed, and eventually, you could find an outlet just about anywhere you looked. Now, there are over 17,000 locations in over 83 countries. Once the memorable “one call does it all” commercial hit the scene, it couldn’t help but grow. If you happen to be born in 1985 – or even 1986 – your family’s pizza night was most likely happening thanks to a newly built Domino’s.
4. Dairy Queen – Late 1980s
When it comes to tasty, emblematic frozen treats, no one does it quite like Dairy Queen. Around since the dawn of time – or you know, since 1940 – Dairy Queen has been serving up amazing soft-serve and sundaes in 20 countries all around the world. While it had been around for a while when the eighties rolled around, it wasn’t until the end of the decade that the chain got the true recognition it deserved. And, why would a seemingly old chain at the time suddenly surge in popularity like that, you may ask? Well, it’s very simple; it’s all thanks to the beloved Blizzard. It might be hard to believe that this absolute symbol of the company hasn’t been around since the very beginning, but it’s true. This soft-serve creation was introduced to the DQ the menu in 1985 and was an instant hit – to say the least. During the first year alone, it sold 175 million units. In one year. The genius idea came to a DQ franchise owner after seeing a competitor’s ice cream shop selling frozen custard, and the rest is history. This winning creation was quickly followed by the acquisition of Orange Julius in 1987, which could only helped Dairy Queen move forward from that point on. And only two years after its expansion, in 1989, Dairy Queen reached top category status in the country. So, turns out you weren’t the only baby born in 1985; another legend was too.
3. Starbucks – 1990 To 1995
Where do you go when you’re in need of a quick and effective caffeine boost? If the answer isn’t Starbucks, then you’re clearly not from the generation that saw the rise of this iconic chain. When Starbucks was first founded in 1971, the main goal of the chain was to serve the most basic coffee to its under-caffeinated customers. Then, as the years passed, Starbucks began offering certain drinks that were a little fancier and more aesthetically pleasing than your plain, old usual cup of Joe. And in 1995, the world of coffee was rocked forever when the famous Frappuccino was rolled out. Available in both caffeinated and caffein-free flavors, the blend of coffee, milk, and ice, truly created a successful wave for Starbucks and greatly helped the chain expand even more. Of course, the introduction of the drink wasn’t the only thing that turned this coffee place into a fruitful company. A few years previous, in 1990, Starbucks launched a new customer loyalty program. This move allowed the company to grow their clientele and expand really quickly. From 1990 to 2000, thanks to the loyalty program, Starbucks expanded to include over 3,500 more stores. Hands down, this coffee chain was the biggest coffee hang-out spots of the decade.
2. Chipotle – 1998 To 2001
Again, so what’s with this obsession with Mexican fast-food places? Maybe it’s because it’s so good. Fair enough. First opened in 1993 by Steve Ells, Chipotle is one of the most heard of up-and-coming fast food restaurants. The chain started as a very modest, very small company that needed to work hard in order to stay afloat in a world full of competing chains. We can easily say that Chipotle had rather humble beginnings. It was in 1998 that the chain got exactly the push it needed to thrive in the industry following the investment from a very important player in the fast-food game.; McDonald’s! Yes, that’s right, McDonald’s was a huge key investor and was greatly responsible for Chipotle’s success. McD’s invested over $360 million into the franchise, which resulted in the fast-food chain expanding even further. This small initial first step allowed Chipotle to expand from 16 restaurants in 1998 to over 500 stores by 2005, and today, there are over 2000 locations. Chipotle reached its pinnacle of popularity from 1998 to 2001, as more people got to discover the chain and wanted to test it out. Obviously, growing popularity also means a growing menu. While today, McDonald’s no longer owns Chipotle, it’s safe to say they’re still doing pretty good on their own. So, if you were born at the end or the beginning of the century, Chipotle was probably the restaurant on everybody’s mind at the time.
1. Subway – 2002
If you think about a sandwich joint that makes some of the best subs on the market, what’s the first place that pops into your head? Is it, perhaps, Subway? One of the most successful sandwich chains ever created? Well, in any case, that’s the one we’re talking about. Subway was founded in 1965 by 17-year old student Fred DeLuca who needed to find a way to pay for college. Knowing absolutely nothing about the industry before getting involved, DeLuca took a $1,000 loan to start the business. Needless to say, as the world’s largest international fast food restaurant chain, beating out McDonald’s in terms of number of locations, he was able to pay his bills just fine. But it didn’t always have the title of “largest fast-food chain.” That didn’t come until 2002 after Subway’s effort to advertise themselves as being healthy paid off greatly. After hiring the infamous Jared Fogle as a spokesperson for the chain in 2000, the chain really took off. He had claimed that Subway’s sandwiches had helped him lose 200 pounds. With practically everyone having a desire to eat healthier and better, this was a turning point for the chain that would change Subway’s success forever. However, the franchise did see setbacks and its reputation tarnished with the arrest and prosecution of their spokesperson.