Although Fatburger offers standard quick service menu items like hamburgers, milkshakes, and onion rings, the restaurant chain focuses on freshness by eschewing microwaves, heat lamps, and frozen meat patties. Known for its tagline the “Last Great Hamburger Stand,” Fatburger has 200 locations in 20 countries. Read on for some juicy facts you might not know about Fatburger.
1. AN AFRICAN-AMERICAN WOMAN OPENED MR. FATBURGER IN 1947.
In 1947, Lovie Yancey was 35 years old and living in Los Angeles. After opening a restaurant in Tucson, Arizona, she wanted to capitalize on the growing popularity of hamburgers, so she founded a hamburger stand out of her garage called Mr. Fatburger. Located on Western Avenue in Los Angeles near Exposition Park and Jefferson Park, Mr. Fatburger was so tiny it had only three stools for customers to sit and eat.
2. MR. FATBURGER LOST ITS "MR." AFTER YANCEY SPLIT FROM HER BOYFRIEND.
To build her hamburger stand, Yancey got help from her boyfriend, Charles Simpson. A construction worker, Simpson used leftover scrap materials that he got from his job to build the stand. Although the name Mr. Fatburger may have referred to Simpson’s nickname, Yancey later said that she named her restaurant to convey the large size of her burger. In 1952, Yancey was no longer romantically involved with Simpson, and she removed the “Mr.” from her restaurant’s name.
3. FATBURGER APPEALED TO EVERYONE FROM CELEBRITIES TO LATE-SHIFT WORKERS.
In the 1950s, Yancey worked 16- to 18-hour days at her Fatburger counter, seven days a week. African-American musicians and actors, including Ray Charles, James Brown, and Redd Foxx, frequented Fatburger, and lots of her customers asked her to keep her hamburger stand open all night. She did, and Fatburger became popular with people who worked late night and early morning shifts.
4. YANCEY SUCCESSFULLY GREW HER BUSINESS UNTIL SELLING THE COMPANY IN 1990.
In 1973, Yancey opened a second Fatburger location in Beverly Hills, a spot that celebrities frequented late at night, even after Hollywood awards shows. "One night, there was some kind of awards [ceremony] and people came in limousines in their tuxes and everything," Yancey's daughter, Gwen Adair, recalled in 2008. In the early 1980s, she started franchising her company. Although Yancey sold Fatburger to an investment group in 1990, she kept control of her first two locations.
5. RAPPERS LOVE SHOUTING-OUT FATBURGER IN THEIR SONGS.
A late-night Fatburger was part of Ice Cube's good day, and Tupac hit up the burger joint rather than the club in "Late Night." The Notorious B.I.G. got a little explicit with his date at Fatburger in “Going Back to Cali." And though the Beastie Boys were devout White Castle fans, they were "fly with Fatburger" when "way out west."
6. OTHER BIG-NAME CELEBRITIES HAVE GONE INTO BUSINESS WITH FATBURGER.
In 2001, Magic Johnson’s company bought a controlling interest in Fatburger’s parent company (though he sold it two years later). Pharrell Williams, Kanye West, Montel Williams, and Queen Latifah have all been Fatburger franchisees. Pharrell helped to open Fatburger locations in China, and Queen Latifah got in trouble for reportedly trying to hide her Fatburger connection since it clashed with her job as Jenny Craig spokeswoman.
7. BEFORE SHE DIED, YANCEY DONATED $1.7 MILLION TO FIGHT SICKLE-CELL ANEMIA.
Though Yancey lived to the ripe old age of 96, in 1983, she lost her grandson Duran Farrell, who was just 22, to the heredity disease sickle-cell anemia. To honor him, Yancey donated $1.7 million in 1986 to City Of Hope, a hospital in the greater Los Angeles area, for research into sickle-cell anemia. Yancey herself died in Los Angeles of pneumonia in 2008.
8. THE XXXL FATBURGER CHALLENGE HAS A DAUNTING 24 OUNCES OF MEAT.
Although Fatburger offers burgers in various sizes, from small to massive, the biggest burgers obviously get the most fanfare. With 24 ounces of meat, the XXXL burger comes with a challenge: customers who can eat the entire burger in one sitting get their photos put up on the wall and a certificate. Comedian Jay Leno completed the XXXL challenge and proudly posed with his certificate.
9. FATBURGER ISN'T AFRAID TO GET CREATIVE WITH HOLIDAY FLAVORS.
Fatburger recently hopped aboard the seasonal flavors bandwagon and added limited-time items to its menu, including a pumpkin pie milkshake, sweet potato fries, and a mushroom Swiss hamburger. Thanksgiving at Fatburger … why not?
10. THE ORIGINAL FATBURGER STAND WAS INCORPORATED INTO AFFORDABLE HOUSING UNITS.
The original Fatburger stand on Western Avenue opened in 1947, but it wasn’t designated as one of Los Angeles’s historical-cultural monuments. The stand today exists on 35,000 square feet of land that was commercially zoned. But since the Fatburger shack itself cannot be torn down, the developer incorporated the building into his design for a low-income housing block.