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    These fast food giants were born in Southern California
    • October 12, 2023

    Southern California was a hotbed of fast food innovation in the middle of the 20th century.

    In-N-Out Burger, which opened in 1948 and will mark its 75th anniversary on Oct. 22, is credited with introducing a speaker system that allowed customers to order in advance of reaching the window.

    Several other famous chains were founded about the same time. Founders either knew each other or watched what the others were doing to find out what worked and what didn’t. Sometimes they helped each other out.

    This was especially true in San Bernardino, where McDonald’s, Taco Bell and Del Taco all had their roots.

    Related links

    See the evolution of fast food in Southern California with this timeline
    How fast food history was made at these 12 Southern California sites

    Here are six of those chains in chronological order.

    Carl’s Jr.: Carl Karcher opened a hot dog cart at Florence and Central in Los Angeles in 1941. He opened the first Carl’s Jr. in Anaheim in 1945. The menu has mutated many times and now has burgers and chicken sandwiches, but no hot dogs. Signature burgers include the Famous Star and the Western Bacon Cheeseburger. Parent company CKE Restaurants moved to Tennessee in 2017, but its leaders came back to Orange County to mark its 80th anniversary in 2021. It has more than 3,800 Carl’s Jr. and Hardees restaurants in 44 states and 43 counties, according to its website.

    McDonald’s: The McDonald brothers, Richard and Maurice, had a drive-in serving barbecue in San Bernardino when they decided to streamline their operation in 1948, shortening the menu to burgers and serving customers from a walk-up window. Entrepreneur Ray Kroc came on board as their franchise agent in 1954, taking the company global. Based in Chicago, it now has more than 38,000 locations worldwide. The brothers’ restaurant no longer exists, but an unofficial museum stands in its place at 1398 N E St., San Bernardino. The oldest operating McDonald’s, complete with Golden Arches, is at 10207 Lakewood Blvd., Downey.

    Jack In The Box: Robert O. Peterson opened the first Jack In The Box in San Diego. It was initially known for its intercoms topped by clown heads. The chain sells hundreds of millions of its signature tacos a year, according to the San Diego Union Tribune. It is also known for its Jumbo Jacks and collectible antenna balls. It has more than 2,200 restaurants across 21 states, according to a news release.

    Wienerschitzel: John Galardi opened his first hot dog restaurant in 1961 in Wilmington with mentoring by Glen Bell, a San Bernardino native who studied the McDonald brothers with the idea of copying their success with tacos. Bell hadn’t hit the jackpot yet but had owned several Mexican restaurants. Wienerschnitzel is now run by his son and 350 franchised Wienerschnitzel locations in operation throughout 10 states as well as a large fan base for its chili cheese dogs. It is based in Newport Beach.

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    Del Taco: Ed Hackbarth opened the first official Del Taco in Yermo in 1961, according to his website. Del Taco’s timeline uses 1964. Hackbarth was tight with Glen Bell and influenced Neal Baker, founder of Baker’s Drive-thru, which has a similar menu with “twin kitchens” serving burgers and Mexican food. Based in Lake Forest, Del Taco has about 600 restaurants in 15 states. It was acquired by Jack In The Box in 2021.

    Taco Bell: Glen Bell had his breakthrough when he opened the first Taco Bell, a 400-square-foot walkup stand, in Downey in 1962. The original simple menu of tacos, burritos and beans has exploded into countless variations, including Nacho Fries and a social media fave called Mexican Pizza. Based in Irvine, it has more than 7,200 restaurants serving 40 million customers in the United States and 1,000 more locations in 30 countries, according to parent company Yum! Brands.

    ​ Orange County Register