McDonald's restaurants first introduced the Big Mac systemwide in 1968. (The Big Mac had been introduced slightly earlier in a few stores in Pittsburgh.) It was followed by the Egg McMuffin (1973) and the Happy Meal (1979). Ronald McDonald had been introduced in 1963, several years prior to the Big Mac.
The very first Pizza Hut restaurant was built in Wichita, Kansas. The franchise was founded by two college students, Dan and Frank Carney, who borrowed $600 from their mother in 1958--then rented a small building and purchased some second-hand equipment. Pizza Hut has since grown into one of the most successful fast food businesses in the world.
In 1997, Taco Bell introduced an advertising campaign that featured a talking Chihuahua. The 8-pound, 11-inch-tall chihuahua quickly became the hottest animal pitchster since Spuds McKenzie. In fact, the campaign was so popular that it eventually branched out to include licensing toys, T-shirts and other promotional products.
In 1974, in an attempt to change the prevailing cookie-cutter image of assembly-line fast food restaurants, Burger King introduced the slogan "Have it your way", positioning itself as the hamburger franchise that offers customers the ability to customize their burgers. Popular commercials in which customers asked Burger King employees to "hold the pickle, hold the lettuce" drove home the message and the slogan "Have it your way" has become identifiable with Burger King restaurants worldwide.
In 2000, Subway restaurants began airing ads featuring Jared Fogle, a student from Indiana University who had formerly tipped the scales at 435 pounds -- that is until he lost 245 pounds by restricting his diet to two SUBWAY submarine sandwiches a day. By 2013, Fogle had filmed more than 300 commercials, and Subway attributed one third to one half of its growth in sales to Fogle, with revenue having tripled from 1998 to 2011. In 2015, however, Fogle was sentenced to 15 years in prison for indecent relations with several minors, and Subway severed all ties.
In 1975, Juan Francisco "Pancho" Ochoa opened his first chicken stand in the small town of Guasave on Mexico's Pacific Coast. He named the stand "El Pollo Loco", Spanish for "The Crazy Chicken." The stand was a big hit and news quickly spread. By 1979, Pancho's family had opened 85 restaurants in Northern Mexico. El Pollo Loco was purchased by Denny's restaurants in 1983, and by 2004 they were operating more than 300 El Pollo Loco restaurants in the United States.
Colonel Harland Sanders first introduced the world to the taste of his Original Recipe Kentucky Fried Chicken in 1939. Featuring a secret blend of 11 herbs and spices, news of the Colonel's tasty chicken spread quickly, and by 1964 he had opened more than 600 Kentucky Fried Chicken restaurants. Today, security precautions protecting the Colonel's secret recipe would make even James Bond proud. It is locked away in a safe in Louisville, Kentucky, and only a handful of people have ever been allowed to view the recipe.
The Papa John's restaurant franchise was founded in 1984 when "Papa" John Schnatter knocked out a broom closet in the back of his father's tavern and sold his prized 1972 Z28 Camaro to purchase $1,600 worth of used pizza equipment. He began selling pizzas to the tavern's customers out of the converted closet, and his pizzas proved so popular that only one year later he was able to move into an adjoining space. He didn't stop there, however, and by 2005, he had opened nearly 3,000 Papa John's restaurants in the United States and 20 international markets.