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
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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.

The Great Tryptophan Lie: Eating Turkey Does Not Make You Tired

H. Armstrong Roberts/iStock via Getty Images
H. Armstrong Roberts/iStock via Getty Images

While you’re battling your cousins for the best napping spot after Thanksgiving dinner, feel free to use this as a diversion tactic: It’s a myth that eating turkey makes you tired.

It’s true that turkey contains L-Tryptophan, an amino acid involved in sleep. Your body uses it to produce a B vitamin called niacin, which generates the neurotransmitter serotonin, which yields the hormone melatonin, which helps regulate your sleeping patterns. However, plenty of other common foods contain comparable levels of tryptophan, including other poultry, meat, cheese, yogurt, fish, and eggs.

Furthermore, in order for tryptophan to produce serotonin in your brain, it first has to make it across the blood-brain barrier, which many other amino acids are also trying to do. To give tryptophan a leg up in the competition, it needs the help of carbohydrates. Registered dietitian Elizabeth Somer tells WebMD that the best way to boost serotonin is to eat a small, all-carbohydrate snack a little while after you’ve eaten something that contains tryptophan, and the carbs will help ferry the tryptophan from your bloodstream to your brain.

But Thanksgiving isn’t exactly about eating small, well-timed snacks. It’s more about heaps of potatoes, mountains of stuffing, and generous globs of gravy—and that, along with alcohol, is more likely the reason you collapse into a spectacular food coma after your meal. Overeating (especially of foods high in fat) means your body has to work extra hard to digest everything. To get the job done, it redirects blood to the digestive system, leaving little energy for anything else. And since alcohol is a central nervous system depressant, it also slows down your brain and other organs.

In short, you can still hold turkey responsible for your Thanksgiving exhaustion, but you should make sure it knows it can share the blame with the homestyle mac and cheese, spiked apple cider, and second piece of pumpkin pie.

[h/t WebMD]

How Mammoth Poop Gave Us Pumpkin Pie

MargoeEdwards/iStock via Getty Images
MargoeEdwards/iStock via Getty Images

When it’s time to express gratitude for the many privileges bestowed upon your family this Thanksgiving, don’t forget to be grateful for mammoth poop. The excrement of this long-extinct species is a big reason why holiday desserts taste so good.

Why? Because, as Smithsonian Insider reports, tens of thousands of years ago, mammoths, elephants, and mastodons had an affinity for wild gourds, the ancestors of squashes and pumpkin. In a 2015 study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, a Smithsonian researcher and colleagues found that wild gourds—which were much smaller than our modern-day butternuts—carried a bitter-tasting toxin in their flesh that acted as a deterrent to some animals. While small rodents would avoid eating the gourds, the huge mammals would not. Their taste buds wouldn't pick up the bitter flavor and the toxin had no effect on them. Mammoths would eat the gourds and pass the indigestible seeds out in their feces. The seeds would then be plopped into whatever habitat range the mammoth was roaming in, complete with fertilizer.

When the mammoths went extinct as recently as 4000 years ago, the gourds faced the same fate—until humans began to domesticate the plants, allowing for the rise of pumpkins. But had it not been for the dispersal of the seeds via mammoth crap, the gourd might not have survived long enough to arrive at our dinner tables.

So as you dig into your pumpkin pie this year, be sure to think of the heaping piles of dung that made the delicious treat possible.

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