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Burger Chef

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Burger Chef
Defunct1996; 25 years ago (1996)
FateCompany defunct after it was sold 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.


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.[2]

Burger Chef advertisement (1966).

Burger Chef spread across the United States, following a strategy of opening outlets in smaller towns.[2]

By 1972, its number of locations (1,200) was surpassed only by McDonald's (1,600).[3] 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.[citation needed]

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.[4]

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 $6.25 million in 2020). It was stated that Australians disliked the limited burger based menu as compared to a Milk Bar.[5] The chain had two mascots: Burger Chef (voiced by Paul Winchell) and Jeff (the chef's juvenile sidekick).[citation needed]

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

In the early 1970s, the chain introduced the Funburger and the Funmeal, with 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, puzzles, and small toys. When McDonald's introduced their Happy Meal in 1979, the chain sued, but ultimately lost.[citation needed]

In 1982, General Foods sold Burger Chef to the Canadian company Imasco, which also owned Hardee's, for US$44 million (equivalent to $118 million in 2020).[6] Imasco converted many locations to Hardee's restaurants and let franchises and locations near existing Hardee's locations convert to other brands. Remaining restaurants that did not convert to Hardee's or new names and branding simply closed.[citation needed]

Hardee's brought back the Big Shef hamburger for a limited time in 2001, 2007, and 2014 at some Midwestern locations.[7][8]

Trademark suit

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.[9]

On April 16, 2009, River West Brands dropped their petition for cancellation, and both parties agreed to pay their own attorneys' fees.[9]


  • 1980–1996 – "Nowhere else but Burger Chef."[10]
  • 1976–1980 – "We really give you the works."[11] and "Open wide America, you never can forget. You get more to like at Burger Chef."
  • 1971–1976 – "You get more to like at Burger Chef."[12][13]
  • 1970–1971 – "There's more to like at Burger Chef."[14] and "Burger Chef goes all out to please your family."[15]

See also


  1. ^ McDonald, John F. & McDonald, John P. (2002). Lost Indianapolis. Arcadia Publishing. ISBN 9780738520087.
  2. ^ a b Sanders, Scott R. (2009). Burger Chef. Arcadia Publishing. p. 9. ISBN 978-0-7385-6098-4.
  3. ^ 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.
  4. ^ "General Foods Says It Plans To Buy Burger Chef Systems". The Wall Street Journal. October 16, 1967. p. 17. Alternate Link via ProQuest.
  5. ^ Kent, Thomas (April 16, 1975). "NewsBank OpenURL | NewsBank InfoWeb". Houston Chronicle (Section 3 Page 9). Associated Press. Retrieved April 28, 2020.
  6. ^ "Hardee's to Buy Burger Chef". The New York Times. December 10, 1981.
  7. ^ "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.
  8. ^ Kessler, John (May 19, 2014). "Hardee's brings back the Burger Chef Big Shef for a LTO". Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Retrieved December 10, 2014.
  9. ^ a b "Withdrawal of Cancellation" (PDF). Trademark Trial and Appeal Board, US Patent and Trademark Office. April 16, 2009.
  10. ^ "Nowhere else but Burger Chef". Retrieved August 8, 2013.
  11. ^ "Burger Chef". Retrieved August 8, 2013.
  12. ^ "You get more to like at Burger Chef". Retrieved August 8, 2013.
  13. ^ "Double Delight (advertisement)". St. Petersburg Times. February 12, 1977. p. 9B. Retrieved August 8, 2013.
  14. ^ "There's more to like at Burger Chef". Retrieved August 8, 2013.
  15. ^ "Triple Treat Yourself (advertisement)". Owosso Argus-Press. December 17, 1970. p. 22. Retrieved August 8, 2013.

External links