The People Behind 15 Fast Food Names

Giants Humm Baby, Youtube
Giants Humm Baby, Youtube / Giants Humm Baby, Youtube

Ever wonder who is behind the names of your favorite fast food joints? Now you can put a face to the burger.

1. McDonald’s 

Before Ray Kroc turned the modest burger joint into a corporation, McDonald’s was just a BBQ drive-in in California. The restaurant was founded by brothers Richard and Maurice McDonald—known as Dick and Mac—who were the company’s namesake. 

2. P.F. Chang’s 

The name of this restaurant is actually a hybrid of two of the founder’s names. P.F. comes from restaurateur Paul Fleming's initials, and Chang is a simplified version of chef Philip Chiang's last name. 

3. Church’s Chicken 

Church’s Chicken gets its name from founder George W. Church. He opened the first chicken joint in 1952, right across from the Alamo in San Antonio.

4. Wendy’s 

Founder Dave Thomas tried out the names of all five of his children before settling on Wendy, his daughter Melinda’s nickname. The little redhead became the face of the restaurant and now, as an adult, Wendy can be seen in commercials promoting the restaurant. 

5. Taco Bell 

Taco Bell gets its Bell from its founder, Glen Bell. The restaurateur originally sold burgers at a fast food restaurant called Bell’s Burger. After the market got too crowded, he decided to bring the taco to the fast food world. His first shot at tacos was called Taco Tia. Later he opened Taco Bell after a friend suggested the name.

6. Denny’s 

Before Denny’s was a late-night diner, it was a doughnut shop called Danny’s Donuts. The name Danny was simply chosen for the alliteration. Eventually the focus was switched to coffee and the name was changed to Danny’s Coffee Shop. The name was changed again to Denny’s Coffee Shop to avoid confusion with another area establishment, Coffee Dan’s. The company finally shortened the name to Denny’s in 1961, and has stuck with it since.

7. Papa John’s 

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Most people are familiar with the face of Papa John, because he can be seen on most promotional media for the company. John Schnatter is the restaurant’s founder, and he opened the first Papa John’s in 1985. The Papa part of the name is likely inspired by Schnatter’s grandfather, “Papaw” Ackerson. 

8. Carl’s Jr. 

Founder Carl Karcher is the namesake behind Carl's Jr. He and his wife, Margaret, opened a drive-in BBQ called Carl’s after finding success in hotdog carts. Then, Karcher opened two smaller restaurants in 1956 and called them Carl's Jr. because of their size. 

9. Jimmy John’s 

Jimmy John Liautaud was just 19 when he opened Jimmy John’s in 1983. After graduating next-to-last in his prep school class, his father told him he could either join the military or start a business. Liautaud took a loan from his father and started a restaurant. 

10. Bob Evans 

Robert Lewis "Bob" Evans opened a truck stop diner near his farm in Rio Grande, Ohio in 1946. Unsatisfied with the current sausages on the market, he decided to make his own using hogs from his farm. From there, the chain has seeped into 19 different states. 

11. Tim Horton’s 

Just as the name suggests, the beloved Canadian doughnut shop was founded by ice hockey player Tim Horton. The defenseman played in the NHL for 22 years, most of which was spent on the Toronto Maple Leafs. Horton opened a doughnut and coffee shop in 1964 as a way to make money once his hockey career ended. 

12. Carvel

Older lovers of the ice cream shop probably remember founder Tom Carvel from the company's commercials. The businessman invented soft-serve ice cream, but he may be better known for his distinct voice.

13. Sbarro 

The pizza joint got its name from founders Carmela and Gennaro Sbarro. The couple opened up a deli in Brooklyn that specialized in fresh imported meats from Italy. The family-run business soon entered the pizza market and began to expand. Carmela was known as “Mama Sbarro” and became the mascot of the chain, working at the original Brooklyn location well into her 80s. 

14. Perkins 

Matt and Ivan Perkins opened Perkins Pancake House in Cincinnati, Ohio in 1958. Eventually the chain combined with Smitty's Pancake House to become Perkins Cake & Steak. The Perkins brothers retired in 1979, and sold their remaining share of the company. 

15. Baskin-Robbins 

Brothers-in-law Burton "Burt" Baskin and Irvine "Irv" Robbins both had a passionate love for ice cream, so they each opened ice cream shops in California. Baskin’s Burton's Ice Cream Shop and Robbins’ Snowbird Ice Cream eventually merged together in 1953.