Who Came First?

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Who Came First?


One of the most interesting things about franchising are the stories of the brands and how they got started. Who was this person or person(s) that had the vision to create a product or service and make it so popular that it became a household name?

So, this week I decided to do some research into the history of some of my favorite brands. While I was digging around in the archives, I found that some brands have competed with each other for decades. What’s more interesting is how some of the stories of these brands are intertwined. So, in this video I’m going to share with you which franchise came first.

Waffle House or Huddle House?

Who Came First? Waffle House came first!

Waffle House

Waffle House was founded by Joe Rogers and Tom Forkner in 1955 in Decatur Georgia. Joe brought the restaurant experience, and Tom brought the real estate experience. Before the Waffle House was even a twinkle in his eye, Joe worked as a short order cook at Toddle House, a predominantly takeout, 24/7 QSR or quick service restaurant. Toddle House disappeared in 1962, but there are some features like the short counter and bar that were worked into the design of the Waffle House. In 1960 the Waffle House started franchising. Unfortunately, Tom and Joe both passed away this year, but they left 2100 locations across the USA.

Photo Source: Atlanta Time Machine
Photo Source: Atlanta Time Machine

Huddle House

Huddle House arrived on the scene in 1964 in the same city as Waffle House, Decatur Georgia. The 24/7 diner was started by John Sparks. In 1966, Huddle House started franchising, and unlike Waffle House, Huddle House still franchises to this day. And if you’re curious the Huddle in Huddle House refers to a football huddle. Huddle House has over 400 restaurants nationwide.

McDonald’s or Burger King?

Who Came First? It’s complicated.


McDonald’s started as a food stand called Airdrome in Monrovia, California in 1937 by Patrick McDonald. Patrick’s two sons, Maurice and Richard moved the operation to San Bernandino in 1940, and called it McDonald’s Bar-B-Que. After testing food items and overhauling the kitchen to accommodate the tested food items, McDonald’s opened in 1948. Now here’s where the story gets interesting, in 1954 Ray Kroc, who was selling milkshake mixers when he received an order from the McDonald’s brothers for 8 mixers. Ray was used to selling the mixers by ones and two so when he got an order for 8, he was naturally curious. Kroc talked the McDonald’s brothers into franchising their brand and Kroc opened his first unit in Des Plaines, Illinois in 1955. If you’re interested in the McDonald’s story, check out the movie The Founder.

McDonalds 1
Photo Source: interactive.wttw.com

Burger King

Many sources cite that the founders of Insta-Burger King, which would eventually become just Burger King were inspired by the successful McDonald’s brothers. Insta-Burger King was founded in Jacksonville Florida in 1953 by Keith Kramer and Matthew Burns. When Insta-Burger King, named for two pieces of equipment called insta machines, hit some financial bumps in the road, the company was acquired by franchisees, David Edgerton and James McLamore. David and James were classmates at Cornell that both lived in Miami. The two franchisees, now brand owners, dropped the insta and officially changed the name to Burger King. The first Insta Burger King location was opened in Miami in 1954.

Technically McDonald’s came first. They open in San Bernardino in 1948, but it wasn’t until Kroc took them east and started heavily franchising, that the brand really took off. Kroc labeled his first franchised location as McDonald’s #1 and opened in 1955, a year after the first Burger King.

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Marriott or Hilton?

Who Came First? Hilton came first!


The story of the Hilton’s on the other hand starts with Conrad Hilton first hotel acquisition in Cisco, Texas in 1919. Hilton went on to open his first hotel in 1927 in Waco, although the first named Hilton hotel was opened in 1925 in Dallas. He was also the first to establish a mass reservation system. HILCRON  could receive reservations by telephone and even telegram. Hilton has over 4,922 properties worldwide and includes brands like Double Tree, Hampton Inn, and Embassy Suites.

Photo Source: texasingenuity.com


The first Marriott Hotel was opened in Arlington Virginia in 1957, but the Marriott’s got their start as an A&W Root beer shop in 1927, the same year they were married. John and Alice Marriott grew their fleet of restaurants called Hot Shoppe Eateries by adding food to the all beverage menu. In 1964 there were 73 Hot Shoppe eateries. Marriott eventually closed or sold most of his eateries due to a thin profit margin, but they continued to focus on their hotel empire. There are more than 5,700 Marriott properties worldwide and includes brand like Ritz Carlton, and Residence Inns.

Photo Source: Blogs.marriott.com

Pizza Hut or Domino’s Pizza?

Who Came First? Pizza Hut came first!

Pizza Hut

Two brothers, Dan Carney and Frank Carney founded this pizzeria in 1958 in Wichita Kansas. The ‘Hut’ in Pizza Hut came from the limited space available on the brothers first sign. The brand was started with a $600 capital infusion by the Brothers mom. The first franchise store was opened a year later in 1959 in Topeka Kansas. Pizza Hut now has more than 16,000 locations worldwide.

Photo Source: PizzaHut.com

Domino’s Pizza

Tom Monaghan and his brother James Monaghan acquired a Ypsilanti, Michigan pizzeria in 1960 called DomiNick’s. The deal between the brothers was that they’d split working the hours at the store, but James already had a full time job as a postal worker. Unwilling to give up his job, James traded in his interest in the business to Tom for a Volkswagen Beetle. Tom quickly acquired two other pizzerias in the same vicinity, but it wasn’t until 1965 that the branded name Domino’s was established. Tom went on the franchise the brand. The first franchised store opened in 1967. Dominoes has over 13,800 locations worldwide.

Photo Source: MentalFloss.com

Subway or Jersey Mikes?

Who Came First? Jersey Mikes came first!


Fred Deluca is a name that most people recognize. He was the founder of Subway. Started in 1965 in Bridgeport Connecticut, Subway was first known as a ‘Pete’s Super Submarines’. The Pete in Pete’s Super Subs was a gentleman named Dr. Peter Buck who loaned Fred $1,000 to get the sub shop started. In 1968, Fred changed the name to Subway and in 1974 Subway started franchising. There are now more than 44,000 Subway sandwich shops worldwide.

Photo Source: Subway.com

Jersey Mike’s

Jersey Mikes opened their first shop in 1956, but it wasn’t until Peter Cancro who was 17 when, bought the original (and only) location in 1974 with the help of his banker slash former football coach, that the expansion of the brand as we know it today started to take off. Today Jersey Mike has over 1,050 locations nationwide.

Photo Source: JerseyMikes.com

Krispy Kreme or Dunkin’ Donuts?

Who Came First? Krispy Kreme came first!

Krispy Kreme

Kristy Kreme is legacy; the brand started in 1937 when its founder Vernon Rudolph purchased a secret doughnut recipe from a Frenchmen. The first Krispy Kreme opened its doors in 1937 in Winston-Salem, NC and was a raving success. Vernon started out delivering the doughnuts to businesses, but due to the doughnuts extreme popularity, began selling them out of hole he cut into the back of his establishment. Krispy Kreme started using machines to make their doughnuts in the 1950’s

Photo Source: KrispyKreme.com

Dunkin’ Donuts

Dunkin’ Donuts got its start in 1950 in Canton Massachusetts. The founder of Dunkin’ was William Rosenburg. William first opened an “Open Kettle” in 1948 and in 1950 Open Kettle was re-branded as Dunkin Doughnuts when Bill noticed his clientele dunking their doughnuts into their coffee. The first Dunkin Doughnut franchise sold in 1955.

Photo Source: Boston Globe

Chipotle Mexican Grill or Moe’s Southwest Grill

Who Came First? Chipotle came first!

Chipotle Mexican Grill

Founded in 1993 by Steve Ellis in Denver, Colorado. Steve’s father loaned him $85,000 and the pair calculated that Steve needed to sell at least 107 burritos a day to keep the doors open. He ended up selling over 1,000 a day and shortly thereafter opened his second store. McDonald’s bought a minority position in to the company in 1998 and by 2001 was a majority investor. There are over 2,250 operating Chipotle restaurants worldwide.

Wikimedia Commons

Moe’s Southest Grill

Did you know Moe’s is an acronym? It stands for Musicians, Outlaws, and Entertainers. Moe’s was founded in 2000 by Raving Brands in Atlanta, Georgia. Focus Brands purchased Moe’s in 2007 and upgraded the aesthetic and the experience. There are over 600 Moe’s locations nationwide.

John Phelan/Wikimedia Commons

White Castle or Krystal?

Who Came First? White Castle came first!

White Castle

Wichita, Kansas is home to the first White Castle. Walt Anderson was no stranger to making burgers. He had been making hundreds of them as a short order cook. Walt had successfully opened 4 small burger locations when he met Billy Ingram, a real estate broker. Billy bought into Walt’s business and White Castle was born. Believe it or not, White Castle has never been franchised. There are 420 locations nationwide in operation today.

Photo Credit: White Castle










Rody Davenport Jr and J Glenn Sherrill opened the first Krystal in 1932 in Chattanooga, Tennessee. Initially Krystal Burger sold burgers and coffee. The Krystal name comes from its dedication to cleanliness. Rody’s wife said the restaurant should be clean as a crystal. It’s no secret that Rody visited White Castle locations. Like Sam Walton, Rody wanted to capitalize on what White Castle was doing right. There are more than 360 Krystal locations open and operating today.

Photo Source: Krystal.com








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