10 Fast-Food Restaurants That Didn't Stick To Their Original Plan

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iStock

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.

1. TACO BELL

Taco Bell restaurant
Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Glen Bell, the founder of Taco Bell, 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.

2. DUNKIN' DONUTS

Dunkin' Donuts employee places a 'croissant doughnut' in a box
Andrew Burton/Getty Images

Can you imagine if Dunkin' Donuts had a fleet of vehicles that drove around like the ice cream man, selling sweet, glazed carbs to anyone who could scrounge up some change? Well, they used to, sort of. After working for just such an ice cream company, William Rosenberg used his war bonds and borrowed some money to start a mobile catering business that delivered breakfast and lunch to factory workers. He noticed that his best sellers by far were coffee and doughnuts, and decided to base the whole business around them. 

3. POPEYES

Popeyes restaurant
Joe Raedle/Getty Images

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

4. BEN & JERRY'S

employee of Ben & Jerry's scoops ice cream into a cone
Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images)

When Ben and Jerry decided to go into business, they really wanted to make bagels. But the equipment required to make bagels was rather expensive, so they researched a cheaper product. "[The bagel-making equipment] was more money than we had between us," Jerry said last year. "When we found out ice cream would be cheaper, we picked ice cream." Although they've released plenty of other breakfast-related ice cream flavors—Cinnamon Buns, Coffee & Biscotti, and Maple Grape Nut among them—they have yet to create a lox and bagel-flavor.

5. SONIC

How about a Sonic Steakhouse? The founder, Troy Smith, had big plans for an upscale steak eatery when he originally entered the restaurant business. He opened a small diner called Troy's Pan Full of Chicken to generate revenue for the bigger steakhouse and realized somewhere in the middle of things that he was making a load of money selling just root beer, hamburgers and hot dogs every week. He decided to stick with the low-brow menu and scrap the sirloin.

6. Hardee's

 Hardee's Monster Thickburger
Erik S. Lesser/Getty Images

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.

7. Carl's Jr.

Carl's Jr. location in Fort Collins, Colorado
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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, Paris Hilton biting into a big, juicy tamale wouldn't have quite the same effect as Paris Hilton biting into a big, juicy Six Dollar Burger, right?

8. Tim Hortons

Tim Horton's cafe in Manhattan
Spencer Platt/Getty Images

What if Tim Hortons' Timbits actually referred to chicken nuggets? It could have gone that way—the hockey player originally focused his side business on hamburgers and opened a few burger joints in Toronto and North Bay. But they didn't do so well, and he 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 is all over Canada and is on U.S. expansion.

9. Chick-fil-A

The exterior of Chick-Fil-A,
Andrew Renneisen/Getty Images

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 diehards is that the Dwarf Houses offer steakburgers and hamburgers. What would the "Eat Mor Chikin" cows think?!

10. McDonald's

old-style McDonald's restaurant
Tim Boyle/Getty Images

Finally, of course, there's McDonald's. Like our other frankfurter entrepreneurs, Dick and Mac McDonald started with a mere hot dog stand in Monrovia, California. They upgraded, but burgers weren't really their main focus—they planned to capitalize on their delicious BBQ. They were mistaken. Several years later, they noticed that burgers were the item keeping the store alive and decided to switch exclusively to burgers, shakes, and fries. Seemed to work out well for them.

Keep Your Cat Busy With a Board Game That Doubles as a Scratch Pad

Cheerble
Cheerble

No matter how much you love playing with your cat, waving a feather toy in front of its face can get monotonous after a while (for the both of you). To shake up playtime, the Cheerble three-in-one board game looks to provide your feline housemate with hours of hands-free entertainment.

Cheerble's board game, which is currently raising money on Kickstarter, is designed to keep even the most restless cats stimulated. The first component of the game is the electronic Cheerble ball, which rolls on its own when your cat touches it with their paw or nose—no remote control required. And on days when your cat is especially energetic, you can adjust the ball's settings to roll and bounce in a way that matches their stamina.

Cheerable cat toy on Kickstarter.
Cheerble

The Cheerble balls are meant to pair with the Cheerble game board, which consists of a box that has plenty of room for balls to roll around. The board is also covered on one side with a platform that has holes big enough for your cat to fit their paws through, so they can hunt the balls like a game of Whack-a-Mole. And if your cat ever loses interest in chasing the ball, the board also includes a built-in scratch pad and fluffy wand toy to slap around. A simplified version of the board game includes the scratch pad without the wand or hole maze, so you can tailor your purchase for your cat's interests.

Cheerble cat board game.
Cheerble

Since launching its campaign on Kickstarter on April 23, Cheerble has raised over $128,000, already blowing past its initial goal of $6416. You can back the Kickstarter today to claim a Cheerble product, with $32 getting you a ball and $58 getting you the board game. You can make your pledge here, with shipping estimated for July 2020.

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The Long, Fascinating History of Chocolate

Wikimedia Commons//Public Domain
Wikimedia Commons//Public Domain

Walk into just about any grocery or convenience store today and you're sure to find row upon row of chocolate in every imaginable form. While we have come to associate this sweet treat with companies like Hershey, chocolate has been a delicacy for centuries.

All chocolate comes from the cacao tree, which is native to the Americas, but is now grown around the world. Inside the tree’s fruits, or pods, you’ll find the cacao beans, which—once roasted and fermented—give chocolate its signature rich and complex flavor. While we don't know who first decided to turn cacao beans into chocolate, we certainly owe them an enormous debt of gratitude.

In this episode of Food History, we're digging into the history of chocolate—from its origins to the chocolate-fueled feud between J.S. Fry & Sons and Cadbury and much, much more. You can watch the full episode below.

For more episodes like this one, be sure to subscribe here!