Mental Floss

The Quick 10: If 10 Fast Food Joints Had Stuck With the Original Plan...

Stacy Conradt
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Ben & Jerry's Bagels? Sonic Steakhouse? Be glad that some of our favorite quick-service places evolved into what they are today. Check out what could have become of these 10 places if fate hadn't intervened.

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2. Glen Bell, the founder of Taco Bell (I had no idea the "Bell" represented a person, I'll be honest), started his career in the fast food business with a meager hot dog stand. It did so well that he sold it and opened a bigger and better stand, and he started selling tacos for 19 cents out of a side window. Before long, the hot dogs were playing second banana to the tacos, and Bell decided to switch the business. Which is probably good—Hot Dog Bell doesn't quite have the same ring to it. Frankfurter Bell? Foot-Long Bell? I think I'll quit while I'm ahead.

3. What if Tim Hortons' Timbits actually referred to chicken nuggets? It could have gone that way—the ex-hockey player originally focused his post pro-sports career on hamburgers and opened a few burger joints in Toronto and North Bay. They didn't do so well. They retooled the concept and reopened as a small doughnut shop housed in an old gas station, selling coffee for 25 cents and doughnuts for 69 cents per dozen. Today, Tim Hortons employs 100,000 people and has more than 3,000 stores (mostly in Canada, but they are working on U.S. expansion).

dunkin
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5. On the other hand, Al Copeland, who created Popeyes Chicken & Biscuits, started out in the doughnut biz and ended up in poultry. He sold his car to purchase a Tastee Donut franchise from his brother and then decided to fry chicken instead of crullers. The first one failed, even with the tagline "So fast you get your chicken before you get your change." But the second version succeeded, making him a multimillionaire. The name, by the way, came from Popeye Doyle from The French Connection—not Popeye the Sailor Man.

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7. Wilbur Hardee, obviously the founder of Hardee's, ran several inn-style restaurants in North Carolina and took that time to study the habits of his patrons. He got rid of the inns and opened his first quick-service place, selling 15-cent hamburgers under the Hardee's name until the chain was purchased by Carl's Jr. in 1997.

8. Speaking of Carl's Jr., Carl Karcher came from similar humble beginnings. Like a lot of the great fast-food giants, Karcher started with a hot dog stand he and his wife purchased by taking a $311 loan out on their car. They also sold tamales. Somehow, I don't think Paris Hilton biting into a big, juicy tamale would have had quite the same effect as Paris Hilton biting into a big, juicy Six Dollar Burger, do you?

9. Chick-fil-A started out as Dwarf Grill (now Dwarf House), a full-service restaurant housed in a tiny little building with a tiny little door. The original can still be found in Hapeville, Georgia, complete with diminutive door (it has a regular door as well). What might be shocking to Chick-fil-A die-hards is that the Dwarf Houses offer steakburgers and hamburgers. Gasp!! What would the "Eat Mor Chikin" cows think?!

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