Pal's Sudden Service, normally called Pal's for short, is a regional fast food restaurant chain located in northeast Tennessee and southwestern Virginia, with stores concentrated in the Tri-Cities, Tennessee metro region. The first Pal's opened in 1956 in Kingsport, Tennessee a year after the founder of Pal's, Fred "Pal" Barger, attended a National Restaurant Convention in Chicago and met Ray Kroc and Fred Turner, observing the construction and equipment they used for the first McDonald's restaurant.
Pal's has always featured a limited menu. Items must not only be popular, but efficient to make. Lunch items are served open to close. Some of the most popular items are:
- Tea – Called "Pal's Tea" locally, a quart-sized cup of sweet tea. This is Pal's most popular item, served from open to close, largely because area workers can buy it in the morning and drink on it all day at work. Made using JFG brand black tea.
- Milkshake; Vanilla, Strawberry, Chocolate (Peanut Butter and Peanut Butter+Chocolat Mix at Pal's #1)
- Big Pal – A 1/3 lb hamburger on a large bun with mayonnaise, onions, lettuce and tomato. (Also with Cheese and as Double Big Pal)
- Sauce Burger – a standard fast food burger with "sauce": a ketchup, relish, and mustard based sauce.
- Jr. Burger – small version of the Big Pal.
- Frenchie Fries – French fries sprinkled with seasoning salt.
- Hot Dog – a hot dog bun with a weiner, mustard, onions, and chili
- Chili Bun – a hot dog bun with chili, mustard, onions and no weiner.
- Chili Burger (also as a Jr.) – 1/3 lb. cheeseburger topped with Chili and onions.
- Chipped Ham Sandwich – A chipped ham sandwich on the Big Pal bun with mayonaise, lettuce and pickle.
- Toasted Cheese Sandwich – A Big Pal bun flipped inside out with two slices of melted cheese, mayonaise, lettuce and tomato.
Pal's serves Breakfast biscuits and other breakfast fast food items such as Cheddar Rounds, cheesy potatoes also popular with fry salt, plus offers the entire dinner menu in the morning. Also, during breakfast hours at all locations and all day at some locations, a cup of coffee can accompany any item on the menu.
Pal's is also noted for their health scores which predominantly run between 95-99 which are also inspected on a monthly basis by their own in-house inspectors to ensure quality and cleanliness.
At Pal's #1, the exterior is covered with red and white tiling, and has a large red sign that is lit up every night. The neon glow shows up saying 'Burgers, Shakes, 19 cents (the original cost for a Pal's Burger). One of the notable features of Pal's is the architecture of the buildings. Pal's #2 has long featured a "Muffler Man" called Big Pal holding a hamburger on the roof. The newer Pal's restaurants are box-shaped with a tiered front decorated by a Big Pal (Hamburger), Hot Dog, an Order of Frenchie Fries and drink cup. Until recently, Pal's #2 also featured a 50's-style lighted sign. The sign was replaced because it became too expensive to operate and maintain. Originally Pal's #1 had a stone front and you didn't come inside, you had to go to a window under a cement awning.
- 1956 - First Pal’s opened Kingsport # 1
- 1958 - Lynn Garden Pal's #2
- 1985 - First drive thrus open in Kingsport
- 1990 - Pal's #5 opened in Johnson City
- 1991 - Greeneville #6 and Gate City #7
- 1992 - Pal's Johnson City Mall #8 and Elizabethton #9
- 1993 - Pal's #10 Volunteer Parkway
- 1994 - Pal's #11 Bristol Highway
- 1995 - Pal's Brook's Circle #12 and Rogersville #13
- 1997 - Pal's Morristown #14
- 1998 - Pal's #15 and Big Breakfast Introduced
- 1999 - Pal's opens in Bristol at Exit 7
- 2001 - Pal's Wins Baldrige National Quality Award
- 2002 - President Bush presents Pal's the Baldrige Award
- 2003 - Two new Pal's, Gray and Blountville
- 2006 - Pal's opens in Jonesborough
- 2007 - Pal's celebrates the 20th year of the "big tea"
- 2008 - Pal's opens in Lebanon, Virginia
- 2008 - Founder Pal Barger is on board the MS Nautica when it is attacked by pirates in the Gulf of Aden.
- 2009 - Pal's opens in Greeneville
- 2009 - Pal's introduces Razzie Tea
- 2009 - Neon sign at Pal's #2 taken down due to high costs of operation
- 2010 - Pal's opens in Norton, Virginia. It has the biggest opening in Pal's history.
- 2012 - Pal's introduces new 3D website http://palsweb.com