Oh, Burger King. How often are you overshadowed by McDonald’s? Regardless of where you stand on either side of the BK vs. McD’s debate, some of these facts will tickle your fancy, especially when you find out that there are people on this planet who have lifetime service at Burger King. Seriously. We want that.
Here are 10 facts perfect for impressing your family members around the holiday table.
1. Burger King was founded in 1953 in Jacksonville, Florida, by Keith Kramer and his wife’s uncle, Matthew Burns. The restaurant’s name? Insta-Burger-King, after the “Insta-Broiler” stove the duo created.
2. The original owners nearly went out of business – but BK was saved by a pair of franchisees. A duo of Cornell grads, James McLamore and David Edgerton, were impressed so impressed by a certain San Bernardino hamburger stand – operated by the McDonald brothers – that they bought an Insta-Burger-King franchise in Miami.
By the late 1950s, McLamore’s and Edgerton’s operations had really taken off … but the original, Kramer and Burns operation was in financial trouble. So, in 1961, McLamore and Edgerton bought out the company, dropped the “Insta,” redubbing it, simply, Burger King.
3. McLamore and Edgerton were also responsible for the creation of the chain’s signature “flame broiler,” in an effort to fix a few of the Insta-Broiler’s problems. They’re also credited with introducing the Whopper, BK’s signature sandwich.
4. The company was in financial straits again in the late 1960s, and Burger King Corp. was purchased by baking giant the Pillsbury Company. With that backing, the company grew to become America’s No. 2 burger chain by the close of the 1970s.
5. In Australia, Burger King is called Hungry Jack’s. When the company expanded to include Australia, it discovered there was already a trademarked Burger King, a take-out food shop in Adelaide.
So, the company allowed the Australia franchisee, Jack Cowin, to select a new name from a list of names already owned by BK and its then-parent company, Pillsbury. The first Hungry Jack’s opened in April 1971 in Perth.
6. About a dozen celebrities were given free, prepaid, lifetime Burger King Crown Club gold cards, which entitles them to free Burger King for the rest of their lives.
A few of the luck A-listers in possession of the coveted card are Jay Leno, Robert Downey Jr., George Lucas, Jennifer Hudson (a former employee!) and Hugh Laurie, who got his after a somewhat infamous, if beneficial, publicity stunt.
7. We’re all familiar with product tie-ins today – it’s hard to find a fast-food joint that doesn’t participate in some sort of cross-promotion – but Burger King was the first to team up with Hollywood. It did so in 1977 in support of a low-budget science fiction film called “Star Wars.”
8. Burger King was in many ways the aggressor in the so-called “Burger Wars” of the 1980s, a series of escalating, ad-based attacks between itself and McDonald’s. The chain was also, however, the first to offer a “ceasefire” of sorts.
In honor of Peace Day (Sept. 21 2015), Burger King offered to join forces with its No. 1 competitor for the creation of the “McWhopper,” to be sold at a one-day, pop-up shop in Atlanta (halfway between the rivals’ headquarters).
9. A young Sarah Michelle Gellar appeared in TV advertisements for Burger King in 1991. In the spot, Gellar knocks the Golden Arches’ 20-percent smaller patties and “showing McDonald’s how (she) feels” about that by going to Burger King.
McDonald’s responded to the commercial with a lawsuit (in which Gellar was named), and the young actress was, for all intents and purposes, banned from eating at McDonald’s.
10. Burger King’s “secret menu” includes an item known as the Suicide Burger – a giant piled with four flame-broiled patties, four slices of cheese, bacon and special sauce on a sesame seed bun. At some locations, it’s also known as the Quad Stacker.