How All Your Favorite Fast Food Restaurants Got Their Start

Whether it’s X-Men Origins: Wolverine, or Straight Outta Compton, everyone loves a good origin story. The origins of your favorite fast food restaurants involve a little less violence then those films, but it’s still interesting how and when they all got their start.

McDonald’s origins have been publicized a bit more with The Founder movie releasing in late 2016, and that’s a good start to this list, but we’ve got a lot more ground to cover from there.

Back before Subway ever met Jared Fogle, before Wendy’s was clowning people on Twitter, or before Starbucks was dishing out Unicorn Frappuccinos, they all started with an idea.

Here’s a quick look at how 10 of your favorite fast food restaurants got their start, with the help of CDA:


Before Ray Kroc got his hands on McDonald’s, it was actually owned by a couple of brothers named Richard and Maurice McDonald. Duh. In 1940, they set up a drive-in barbecue spot called McDonald’s Bar-B-Q in San Bernardino, California before shortening it to just McDonald’s in 1948.



In 1965, Subway was a small sandwich shop brought to life in Bridgeport, Connecticut by a college student who was just trying to pay for his education. Coming full circle, Fred DeLuca’s restaurant would later feed millions of broke college students with its $5 footlongs.



Before KFC took over the fried chicken world, it was just a service station in North Corbin, Kentucky, where Harland Sanders sold fried chicken to drivers who stopped by. In 1930, Colonel Sanders put together the list of secret herbs and spices, scratching them on the back of his kitchen door, and he never looked back.


Dunkin’ Donuts

Starting the whole coffee and donuts trend back in 1948, William Rosenberg found that to be a winning combo, as it sold food in factories and construction sites. Rosenberg decided to open a restaurant around that concept in 1950, as Dunkin’ Donuts was born thanks to the selective taste buds of factory workers.



Wendy’s has a pretty well-known origin, as most people know that Wendy was the name of Dave Thomas’s daughter, and the man had a love for fresh fast food. Before starting Wendy’s in 1969, Thomas actually worked with Colonel Sanders, helping get KFC going, which is probably where he got his franchising chops.


Pizza Hut

Using McDonald’s and KFC as a business model, Dan and Frank Carney wanted to take over the pizza world. Starting in Wichita, Kansas, the two turned an old bar into a pizzeria, calling it, you guessed it, Pizza Hut.


Burger King

The so-called king of burgers had very humble beginnings, as in 1953 Keith J. Kramer and Matthew Burns couldn’t hold down the fort of their beloved Insta-Burger King restaurant. In 1957, they sold it to David Edgerton and James McLamore, who renamed the restaurant just Burger King. The burger joint really took off in 1959 when they invented a gas grill called the “flame broiler,” and started killing it with their flame broiled Whoppers.


Papa John’s

The very first time John Schnatter sold a pizza, it was from the back of his papa’s tavern in Jefferson, Indiana. The tavern was struggling a bit, to the point where Schnatter had to sell his car to keep the business afloat. Soon after, John bought some used pizza-making equipment and started selling pizza from the broom closet at his pop’s tavern, like some sketchy back-alley dealer.


Five Guys

Sure enough, Five Guys was created by five guys in 1986. When Jerry and Janie Murrel told their five sons they either had to go to school, or start a business, the five dudes out of Arlington County, Virginia chose a business. With over 1,500 restaurants across the country, it’s safe to say the kids made a good decision.



Starbucks is fairly new compared to a lot of the restaurants on this list. Being conceived in 1971, the Seattle-based company started off as a small coffee shop that prided itself on selling coffee with the “highest quality beans.” In 1982, CEO Howard Schultz jumped in, turning it into a coffee bar/cafe-style restaurant. Now it has taken over the world, and every corner in your city.

By Isai Rocha

Isai is the self-proclaimed Kanye West of burrito eating. He has a hard time trusting vegans, ranch dressing and especially vegan ranch dressing.