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.

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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.

6. "Jeff"

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!

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MichaelFields 1 day ago
I never heard of Burger Chef (I lived in the west coast so maybe this was a east coast thing) but from reading about it I REALLY one to go to one now, especially for the Rancher Dinner. Come on rich guys, bring this stuff back, THIS is what we really need now
I grew up on the west coast too. The only time I ever heard of Burger Chef was when it was featured on Mad Men.
KellyTenace 2 days ago
Great food when you're a kid. As an adult, junk food like these FF restaurants grind out takes a real toll on one's system. But again, it was great as a kid.
bre003 3 days ago
All these Hollywood reboots, they should try rebooting some of these franchises. Looking at you Red Barn.
Dave 3 days ago
We had a couple of Burger Chefs in Rhode Island; one in Pawtucket and one in Warwick. There may have been more, but those are the only ones I remembered.
Dave 3 days ago
When Eve Plumb left the Bradys for Burger Chef, actress Geri Reichel (Fake Jan) happily stepped in.
Arjay118 3 days ago
Thanks for the stroll down memory lane. We ate at Burger Chef a lot, because there were the coupons in the program you got at Painters Mill Music Fair (in Owings Mills, Maryland).
PencilSharp 3 days ago
"In case you wanted to put a ton of tartar sauce on your burger.
Hey, to each their own."
I know a Big Boy in striped pants with a slingshot who'd like to have a talk with you, luddite author who cowers behind the "MeTV Staff" canard!
Ironic about the Star Wars posters, since Carl Jr's/Hardee's is the Imperial Death Star of regional chains. While I never met Burger Chef (or Jeff or Shef for that matter), I did become quite familiar with another of their victims, Roy Rogers, along with the "Double R Bar Burger" (ham, onion ring & BBQ sauce as burger toppings: GLORIOUS!) and his beloved "Fixin's Bar" during my time in Maryland.
Good times. Miss you, Roy.
Wish I'd met you, Chef. & most especially...
$#%@ you, Carl Jr!!!
007 4 days ago
i really loved burger chef's burgers, i miss them very much. they had to me a unique taste.
MichaelSkaggs 4 days ago
Tragically the main reason a lot of people in Indiana remember Burger Chef is because of the BC murders in Speedway, Indiana (a suburb of Indianapolis), on November 17, 1978. Four high school workers were murdered by persons unknown. The motive is believed to be a robbery gone wrong because one of them recognized one of the robbers. No money or watches were taken from the victims. The BC was torn down and a loan office at the address. There's a memorial marker and four trees planted in their honor. The case is still considered to be an open one by the Indy PD and there's a $25,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of those responsible.
It should read "and there is a loan office at the address". My bad.
It's a little ridiculous that editing one's comment isn't an option, huh? Best to just cut, delete and paste another one. That how I "edited" this one. :)
CouchPotato987 4 days ago
Never ate at a Burger Chef, they went out of business when I was just 1. Lol
StrayCat 4 days ago
Ate at Burger Chef only occasionally, the food was halfway decent but ordinary. They never stood out from the others which is probably why they disappeared.
Alyssa14 4 days ago
Wow! What a flashback!
Worked at Burger Chef from
1975-1981. Loved it!
Alot of my high school friends and I.
We had so much fun.
Brings back alot off good memories 😀
MichaelSkaggs 4 days ago
They have the Big Chef at Hardee's every once in a while. It's the best!

007 MichaelSkaggs 4 days ago
i believe you are right, i think a few years ago our hardees here in our town had a big chef on the menu but did not stay there for long.
peteandfrances 5 days ago
First job. Made $1/hr. Then they took out for cleaning the uniform. Loved the food though!!!
vinman63 5 days ago
Not familiar with burger chains but I know White Castles fries come in one size.
Andybandit 5 days ago
I never heard of Burger Chef. I grew up in Brooklyn, NY and don't remember them there.
StrayCat Andybandit 3 days ago
They had them in NJ and i believe there was one on Staten Island.
LoveMETV22 5 days ago
I'll have a Big Shef, fry, a coke and a salad. Thank You "Jan".
justjeff 5 days ago
Like Barry noted, there was no Burger Chefs in South Florida (that I was aware of), but how can one not like a burger chain whose sidekick mascot was named "Jeff"???

There *may* have been one in operation on NW 27th Avenue in the early 1960s, but that location (or for whatever franchise it was) later became a used car dealership.

Royal Casle was started by William Singer in the 1930s. It's first location was in the Little RIver area of Miami (NE 2nd Avenue and about 81st Street) and was a 'clone' of the White Castle fast food model.

In the late 1950s White Castle opened two locations... one in North Miami Beach near the 163rd Street Shopping Center and one by Miami Senior High School. By the 60s, both had closed - Floridians preferred Royal Castle burgers and birch beer.
Barry22 5 days ago
No Burger Chefs where I grew up, (SoFL). Or maybe was not aware of any. we did have Royal Castle though.
BigE 5 days ago
My second job was at a Burger Chef.
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