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Burger Chef

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Burger Chef
Company typeSubsidiary
Defunct1996; 28 years ago (1996)
FateSold to Hardee's
HeadquartersIndianapolis, Indiana, U.S.
ProductsHamburgers, fast food
ParentGeneral Foods (1968–1982) Imasco (1982–1996)

Burger Chef was an American fast-food restaurant chain. It began operating in 1954 in Indianapolis, Indiana, expanded throughout the United States, and at its peak in 1973 had 1,050 locations, including some in Canada.[1] The chain featured several signature items, such as the Big Shef and Super Shef hamburgers.

In 1982, the General Foods Corporation, owners of the Burger Chef trademark and name, divested itself of the restaurant chain, gradually selling to the owners of Hardee's. The final restaurant to carry the Burger Chef name closed in 1996.[2]


In 1954, Frank and Donald Thomas patented the flame broiler in their parent company General Equipment Corporation and started their restaurant in Indianapolis, Indiana. In 1957, they opened their first Burger Chef.[3]

Burger Chef advertisement (1966).

Burger Chef spread across the United States, following a strategy of opening outlets in smaller towns.[3]

By 1972, its number of locations (1,200) was surpassed only by McDonald's (1,600).[4] They offered a double burger, called the Big Shef, and later the quarter-pound (113 gram) hamburger, Super Shef. Subsequently, they added the Works Bar, where customers added their own toppings to hamburgers.[5]

In 1968, General Foods Corporation purchased the chain and continued its rapid expansion. At the time of the purchase by General Foods, Burger Chef had 600 locations in 39 states.[6]

By 1969, international expansion was underway with General Foods building ten Burger Chef outlets in Australia. The expansion ended in 1975 with a US$1.3 million loss (equivalent to $7.36 million in 2023). It was stated that Australians disliked the limited burger menu compared to varied options available from milk bars.[7] The chain had two mascots: Burger Chef, voiced by Paul Winchell, and Jeff (the chef's juvenile sidekick).[8][9]

Burger Chef sign in Albuquerque, New Mexico (1979).

In 1972, the chain introduced the Funburger, a hamburger with packaging that included puzzles and a small toy. The following year, the chain introduced the Funmeal, the first kid’s meal that included a burger, french fries, a drink, a cookie, and a small toy; with expanded packaging that included stories about Burger Chef and Jeff's adventures and friends (including the magician Burgerini, vampire Count Fangburger, talking ape Burgerilla, and Cackleburger the witch), with riddles and puzzles. When McDonald's introduced their Happy Meal in 1979, the chain sued, but ultimately lost.[10]

In 1982, General Foods sold Burger Chef to the Canadian company Imasco, which also owned Hardee's, for US$44 million (equivalent to $138.92 million in 2023).[11] Imasco converted many locations to Hardee's restaurants and let franchises and locations near existing Hardee's locations convert to other brands.[8] Remaining restaurants that did not convert to Hardee's or new names and branding simply closed.

Hardee's brought back the Big Shef hamburger for a limited time in 2001, 2007, and 2014 at some Midwestern locations.[12][13]

Trademark suit[edit]

In January 2007, River West Brands LLC, of Chicago, Illinois, sued Hardee's Food Systems in the US Patents and Trademarks Office, claiming abandonment of the Burger Chef trademark.[14] In 2009, River West Brands dropped its petition for cancellation. Both parties agreed to pay their own attorneys' fees.[14]


  • 1970–1971: "There's more to like at Burger Chef."[15] and "Burger Chef goes all out to please your family."[16]
  • 1971–1976: "You get more to like at Burger Chef."[17][18]
  • 1976–1980: "We really give you the works."[19] and "Open wide America, you never can forget. You get more to like at Burger Chef."
  • 1980–1996: "Nowhere else but Burger Chef."[20]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ McDonald, John F. & McDonald, John P. (2002). Lost Indianapolis. Images of America. Arcadia Publishing. ISBN 978-0-7385-2008-7.
  2. ^ Dodds, Eric (May 19, 2014). "Mad Men: A Brief History of the Real-World Burger Chef". Time. Retrieved October 21, 2022. In 1996, the final Burger Chef franchise in Cookeville, Tenn. was converted into a "Pleasers" restaurant.
  3. ^ a b Sanders, Scott R. (2009). Burger Chef. Images of America. Arcadia Publishing. p. 9. ISBN 978-0-7385-6098-4.
  4. ^ Shefrin, Hersh (December 14, 2015). Behavioral Risk Management: Managing the Psychology That Drives Decisions and Influences Operational Risk. Palgrave Macmillan US. p. 409. ISBN 978-1-137-44562-9.
  5. ^ Robinson, John (March 11, 2020). "Burger Chef's Longest-Held Location was in Michigan". 99.1 WFMK. Archived from the original on October 13, 2021. Burger Chef was also the first to come up with the "works bar" where customers could slather on their own ketchup, mustard, mayo, and other condiments to their sandwiches.
  6. ^ "General Foods Says It Plans To Buy Burger Chef Systems". The Wall Street Journal. October 16, 1967. p. 17. ProQuest 133179393. Archived from the original on December 20, 2016. Retrieved July 5, 2017.
  7. ^ Kent, Thomas (April 16, 1975). "NewsBank OpenURL | NewsBank InfoWeb". Houston Chronicle. No. Section 3 Page 9. Associated Press. Retrieved April 28, 2020.
  8. ^ a b Mitchell, Dawn (September 5, 2017). "Burger Chef was 'incrediburgible': RetroIndy". The Indianapolis Star. Archived from the original on January 21, 2022.
  9. ^ Lileks, James (May 5, 2014). "Puzzling Pickles, what's a fun burger?". Star Tribune. Retrieved February 22, 2023.
  10. ^ Tyler, Jessica (October 28, 2018). "This defunct burger chain invented much of what you love about fast food". au.sports.yahoo.com. No. Business Insider. Retrieved October 21, 2022.
  11. ^ "Hardee's to Buy Burger Chef". The New York Times. December 10, 1981.
  12. ^ "Hardee's(R) Brings Back Burger Chef(R) Big Shef(TM) Hamburger for a Limited Time in Select Markets". PR Newswire (Press release). April 23, 2007. Retrieved February 6, 2014.
  13. ^ Kessler, John (May 19, 2014). "Hardee's brings back the Burger Chef Big Shef for a LTO". Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Retrieved December 10, 2014.
  14. ^ a b "Withdrawal of Cancellation" (PDF). Trademark Trial and Appeal Board, US Patent and Trademark Office. April 16, 2009.
  15. ^ "There's more to like at Burger Chef". Trademarkia.com. Retrieved August 8, 2013.
  16. ^ "Triple Treat Yourself (advertisement)". Owosso Argus-Press. December 17, 1970. p. 22. Retrieved August 8, 2013.
  17. ^ "You get more to like at Burger Chef". Trademarkia.com. Retrieved August 8, 2013.
  18. ^ "Double Delight (advertisement)". St. Petersburg Times. February 12, 1977. p. 9B. Retrieved August 8, 2013.
  19. ^ "Burger Chef". Copyrightencyclopedia.com. Retrieved August 8, 2013.
  20. ^ "Nowhere else but Burger Chef". Trademarkia.com. Retrieved August 8, 2013.

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]