Fast Food: Where It All Began

The largest fast food chains are global franchises, with multiple restaurants in most towns yet alone in each country. We decided to take them back to basics however by looking at the origins of the fast food giants. We have mapped out the first ever restaurants of your favourite fast food chains and told the story of how they were created. We also did some research and uncovered some interesting facts about the fast food giants so explore our map and unearth the surprises that are waiting for you. 

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Origins of the most popular fast food restauarants

The Origins Of The Most Popular Fast Food Restaurants


First up on our list, we have McDonald’s. It started in 1940 when two brothers called Richard and Maurice McDonald opened up a drive-in barbecue restaurant. The brothers, Dick and Mac, had a food stand called the ‘Airdrome’ before where they sold hot dogs but they expanded their menu and McDonalds Bar-B-Q was born in 1940. They played with the menu several times during their early days but in October 1948 they streamlined the menu into a fast food concept and changed the name to just McDonalds. In 2016 a film was released about the origins of McDonalds and how Ray Kroc built the restaurant into the global franchise we know today. The origins however starts off with two brothers in San Bernardino, California.


Subway may not be thought of as a global fast food chain, it is often underrated, but they have almost 45,000 restaurants today around the world. Not bad to say the sandwich shop started as a side project to fund Fred DeLuca’s education.


Harland Sanders had many jobs in his lifetime but when he bought a service station in 1930 and started selling fried chicken to hungry drivers, he found his calling. KFC have over 20,000 restaurants today and are the most popular chicken joint around the world.

Dunkin’ Donuts

When William Rosenberg served food in factories and to construction site, he discovered people had a real taste for donuts and coffee. Fast forward almost 70 years and Dunkin’ Donuts is a popular global franchise.


Dave Thomas had two major loves; his family and food. He combined the two in 1969 and Wendy’s was born. A family-friendly restaurant that uses fresh ingredients, serves fast food and excels in customer service; his ambition has led to numerous restaurants around the world. If you take a look at our map you may be surprised to discover who Dave partnered with before the birth of Wendy’s.

Pizza Hut

After watching the success of McDonald’s and KFC, Dan Carney, who had an interest in franchising from studying his business degree, alongside his brother decided to open a pizzeria called Pizza Hut.


Wimpy had the ability to be one of the largest fast food chains around the world. Edward Gold took America by storm with his Wimpy Grills restaurant in 1934 and 20 years later he had sold a license to J.Lyons to franchise the restaurant in the UK before taking it global. Unfortunately, America’s version of Wimpy died with Gold in 1977 and the UK’s restaurants are in fast decline. Wimpy still has a popular presence in South Africa but their early success is now a thing of the past.


One of the few big chains to start outside of America, Nando’s originated in Johannesburg in 1987. There was a chicken restaurant in Rosettenville called Chickenland and when Fernando Duarte took his friend there for dinner; they decided they like the piri-piri chicken so much they needed to buy the business. From here, Nando’s was born and the rest was history.

Five Guys

What do you do if your mum tells you to ‘start a business or go to college’? You set up a global fast food franchise. Five Guys only opened in 1986 but their ‘peanut oil’ fries and customisable burgers have proved a big hit around the world.


Jerry Baldwin, Zev Siegl, and Gordon Bowker opened a coffee shop in Pike Place market in Seattle in 1971, selling coffee made from the highest quality beans. When Howard Schultz joined in 1982 he helped them move from a coffee shop to a coffee bar/cafe and well the rest is history. Starbucks now have over 23,000 restaurants around the world are one of the most popular go to coffee makers.

You can see the full version of the map here. If you want to share the map or use any of our information, please include attribution to us – UK household appliance manufacturer, CDA.