Travel back in time in America 60, 80, 100 years. You already know you would have to give up your laptop, your cell phone, and your Starbucks, but could you count on anything being the same?

It turns out, yes. Believe it or not. Some of America’s biggest fast food mega-empires were built starting as early as 1919! Of course, they were much smaller scale, but some menu items even remain the same. So which of our fast food favs could we eat at on our trip to the past? Here are the 10 oldest fast food restaurants in the county:


Can you guess the 10 oldest restaurant chains in America?Creative Commons/Wiki

10. McDonald’s

Year founded: 1955

Cracking the top 10 list, is the most successful fast food chain of them all. McDonald’s got its start in 1955 when Ray Kroc saw the potential of a small California burger shop where the owners, Dick and Mac MacDonald, had developed some unique restaurant efficiencies. Kroc bought the rights, and the rest is history.

Can you guess the 10 oldest restaurant chains in America?Creative Commons / Wiki

9. Sonic

Year founded: 1953

Once-popular drive-in restaurants didn’t survive changing consumer preferences, that is, except one: Sonic. The retro chain restaurant first opened in Shawnee, Oklahoma in 1953, and still offers burgers, milkshakes and classic drive-in diner fare, among a variety of newer favorites.

8. Denny’s

Year founded: 1953

America’s best-known breakfast spot has been serving up morning meals since 1953. Originally know for their donuts, Danny’s Donuts was open 24 hours a day, until the company decided to change names in 1959 to avoid confusion with another restaurant.

7. KFC

Year founded: 1952

Colonel Harland Sanders never finished sixth grade, but he was motivated to started selling his secret recipe fried chicken in his home town of Corbin, Kentucky. The first Kentucky Friend Chicken restaurant opened in Salt Lake City in 1952 and the Colonel quickly recognized expansion potential

6. Jack in the Box

Year founded: 1951

Robert O. Peterson opened the first Jack in the Box restaurant outside of San Diego to capitalize on hungry California commuters. The focus of the first restaurant was quick-service and the drive-through experience rather than the dining room — highly unusual for a restaurant of that era.

5. In-N-Out

Year founded: 1948

This Southwest and Pacific coast chain restaurant, first opened in 1948, is known for their iconic In-N-Out burgers.  The chain is still privately opened to maintain quality.

Can you guess the 10 oldest restaurant chains in America?Dunkin Donuts

4. Dunkin’ Donuts

Year founded: 1948

Dunkin’ Donuts has ruled the world of coffee and donuts for decades. The first restaurant was called Open Kettle and was located in Quincy, Massachusetts. You could buy a donut for just five cents. The massive chain currently boasts 12,000 locations in 45 counties worldwide, and recently underwent yet another name change when it became simply, “Dunkin.”

3. Dairy Queen

Year founded: 1940

For decades, kids and adults have had a soft spot for soft serve. The first DQ opened in Joliet, Illinois in 1940, distributing 1,600 servings on soft serve in just two hours. Dairy Queen’s continues to find success at its more than 5,700 locations.

Can you guess the 10 oldest restaurant chains in America?White Castle

2. White Castle

Year founded: 1921

White Castle got their start selling tiny square hamburgers for just five cents each at its first restaurant location in Wichita, Kansas in 1921. Founder Billy Ingram launched the family-owned business with just $700. In 2014, Time Magazine declared the White Castle Original Slider the most influential burger of all time.

1. A&W

Year founded: 1919

Today, A&W is probably most likely known for its brand of canned and bottled root beer, but back in 1919 Roy W. Allen opened a walk-up root beer stand in Lodi, California. By 1923, the restaurant became known for the “frosty mugs” it used to serve root beer. Eventually the brand evolved and added typical fast food offerings of hamburgers and french fries to its menu. A&W with 2,400 restaurants, had more locations than McDonald’s until today’s burger behemoth passed it in 1974.. Today, 1,100 A&W restaurant locations exist over 16 countries and territories.


Also see, This is the fastest drive-thru in America.

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Meghan is a full-time writer exploring the fun facts behind food. She lives a healthy lifestyle but lives for breakfast, dessert and anything with marinara. She’s thrown away just as many meals as she’s proud of.