10 reasons we really miss Burger Chef restaurants
With its kooky characters, Star Wars posters, Brady Bunch actors, baseball meals and toppings bar, the fast-food chain was a '70s favorite!
The Burger Chef chain was gobbled up by Hardee's in 1981. It was a surprisingly swift end for a fast-food empire that had expanded to more than 1,000 locations across the United States in the Seventies. Grabbing a bite at Burger Chef was a big part of growing up in that decade.
Boy, how we'd like to see the inside of a Burger Chef again. The closest we've come is the final season of Mad Men, when Don, Peggy and Pete break bread (well, buns) in a perfectly reconstructed Burger Chef. That scene really pushed our nostalgia buttons. And made us hungry.
But Burger Chef was more than burgers and fries. The company was pioneering. Here are some things we really miss about the place.
1. The Big Shef
"Two all-beef patties…," special sauce… er, lettuce, toasted triple decker bun. It may look and sound rather similar to the Big Mac (introduced in widely in 1968) but the Big Shef had some differences. No pickles, onions or sesame seeds. That made a difference for some finicky kids. What was it spelled with an "S"? Good question! We don't know!
2. Star Wars Posters
In 1977, Star Wars partnered with Burger Chef for a blockbuster promotion. McDonald's was probably kicking itself for missing this tie-in. A series of four beautiful painted posters — spotlighting Luke Skywalker, Darth Vader, Chewbacca, and the droid duo of C-3PO and R2-D2 — were made by artist Del Nichols. You could get one with a large Coke, which cost just 49¢ back then!
3. Eve Plumb
Yep, that's Jan Brady! The middle child appeared in a Burger Chef commercial (and uniform!) in the late 1970s, also circa 1977. The Brady Bunch Hour had ended its run in 1977, but it would not be too long until she returned to the role in 1981's The Brady Girls Get Married.
4. The Works Bar
When you ordered your burgers "Without" they came plain. This was ideal. Because that allowed you, the customer, to top the burger to your stomach's content at the "Works Bar." The toppings station even included tartar sauce. In case you wanted to put a ton of tartar sauce on your burger. Hey, to each their own.
5. The Baseball Funmeal
Burger Chef did beat McDonald's to the punch in several key areas. Take the kid meal, for example. Burger Chef's "Funmeal" predated the Happy Meal (introduced in 1979) by several years. In fact, Burger Chef would take legal action against McD's over the similarities between the Funmeal and Happy Meal. In 1976, Burger Chef served up a patriotic Funmeal (some packaged inside Abe Lincoln's "log cabin" box) for the Bicentennial. There was a Magicmeal with magic tricks. We particular love the Baseball Funmeal, which came with circular baseball cards (216 players to collect!) and a game on the box.
The primary mascot of Burger Chef was, obviously, the Burger Chef. But don't overlook his young mascot "Jeff." Actors dressed as the characters would make appearances at roller rinks and restaurants to sign autographs. Burger Chef really catered to kids.
7. All the Other Characters
Burger Chef and Jeff had a robust gallery of friends and foes, much like McDonaldland. They brought to mind the "Monster Cereals," really. There was the balding magician Burgerini, Count Fangburger, the orange talking ape Burgerilla, the monstrous Crankenburger, and the Werewolf. Crankenburger even had his own (flexi) record.
8. The Jingles
Every chain needs a catchy slogan and chorus. Burger Chef started the Seventies with a breezy, folky tune that promised, "We always treat you right." Later, commercial actors sang, "You Get More to Like at Burger Chef." Near the end of its life, the chain simplified with "Nowhere else." Have any of those refrains stuck in your head?
9. The Hostess
Now here is an idea you won't find at fast-food chains today — a hostess. "She's here to greet you with a smile and see to it that you're well taken care of," an ad promised. The Hostess was a borderline babysitter. "Need help with the children? She'll keep 'em happy while you pick up your order."
10. The Rancher Dinner
Ok, we end on a hungry note, with a unique meal that we could go for today. The Rancher Dinner served up 1/3 pound of beefsteak, fries, Texas toast and all-you-can-eat salad. For $1.39. Even for 1976, that was cheap. That translates to just about $6.50 today!