Founded in 1955 by Linzer restaurateur Friedrich Jahn (1923 - 1998) in Munich, it rapidly grew up to Europe's largest chain of fast-food restaurants with more than 1600 restaurants in 1978. By 1978, Wienerwald purchased the 273-restaurant Lum's chain from former Kentucky Fried Chicken owner John Y. Brown, Jr.. The chain's inability to market themselves as a provider of good tasting chicken (rather than overcoming the US misconception that "Wienerwald" was a wiener chain), plus their huge growth in 1978 brought enormous debts. Many of the restaurants in the USA and Europe were forced to close; Wienerwald declared bankruptcy in 1982, divesting itself of its 880 restaurants in the United States.
In 2007, Friedrich Jahn's daughters Margot Steinberg and Evelyn Peitzner purchased the company and Wienerwald started a new era. In June 2009, the first Wienerwald in Turkey was opened in Istanbul. The first Romanian restaurant in Bucharest was opened in April 2011. As of 2012[update] there were 30 restaurants in Germany (15 in Bavaria) compared to 19 restaurants in Turkey (Istanbul, Ankara, Bursa, and Antalya), three restaurants in Romania (Bucharest) and one restaurant in Egypt (Cairo).