Like many of you, one of my favorite memories from childhood is going out to eat with my family. Since we were native Californians, and my father worked in downtown Los Angeles, he seemed to know all the best places — whether fancy or casual. Over the years, it was fun to see those restaurants grow around the world, and I suppose that I was lucky enough to dine at nearly every one, like I’m sure many of you have.
Now, as an entrepreneur myself, I was delighted to read through the brief histories of some of my favorite places to eat throughout my lifetime. Some of them are gone now, but live on in our memories. The stories of their hardships and how (and why) they changed hands, I found as surprising as they are riveting.
The book is organized with several pages dedicated to each chain, with lots of historic photos, advertisements, timelines, and more, arranged in a colorful, varied, and engaging layout. The text is concise yet engaging, as it goes through the corporate history (more than, say, descriptions how the food tastes).
The restaurants are arranged by the dates in which they started and include many that you and I would recognize — and dine at often — today. Among the many, are Van de Kamps, A&W, See’s Candies, Orange Julius, Big Boy, Lawry’s Prime Rib, Pink’s Hot Dogs, McDonald’s, Carl’s Jr., Baskin-Robbins, Tommy’s, Hot Dog on a Stick, In-N-Out, Love’s, Marie Callender’s, Swenson’s Ice Cream, Winchell’s Donuts, Jack in the Box, Denny’s, Shakey’s Pizza, Sambo’s, Sizzler, IHOP, Wienerschnitzel, Taco Bell, and Del Taco, plus many more.
I’ve learned lots of interesting things, including that the Del Taco I worked at as a teenager was the 500th location in the chain! The book answers lots of the same questions I’m sure all of you have wondered about. I was always confused by Fatburger’s original location. The well-informed (and well-known) author explained that they built the location to be close to some of their biggest customers, like Elizabeth Taylor, Johnny Carson, and Muhammad Ali. I also learned that Randy’s Donuts was originally named the Big Do-Nut Drive-in — which explains the giant donut on top!
Growing up, my family was friends with one of the chain’s CEOs, and the stories here match up well (and fill in the blanks) of the stories he told us. I’m delighted to see how accurate and well done these brief histories are. If you grew up like I did, enjoy California or corporate histories, or simply love these world-famous chains, this book is a treasure trove of information that I don’t think you’d find anywhere else! What a treasure!