24 Oldest Fast Food Chains in the World

What is Fast Food? What are Fast Food Chains? When were the Oldest Fast-Food chains founded? Which is the Oldest among these chains?
24 oldest fast food chains in the world
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According to an estimate, people around the world eat fast food more than their normal food. And most of this fast food comes from fast-food restaurants. Do you know that alone in the United States, there are about 50,000 fast-food chains? Well, this reminds me of today’s topic which is about the oldest fast food chains in the world. So, make some space in your tummy to know about the oldest fast food chain list, the oldest fast food franchise, and the specialities of these chains.

A. Fast Food

The term fast food consists of all the food items prepared quickly to serve its customers. It is a much wider term because it contains various items like pizza, burgers, tacos, ice-creams, fried chicken, hot dogs, French fries, onion rings, etc. According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), any food item that is easily and quickly accessible and a cheap alternative to home-cooked meals can be considered fast food. (See What are Egg Roll Wrappers made of?)

B. Fast Food Chains

You can order fast food from several places. These are called fast food chains because they are found in different places. A fast-food chain can be a sit-down restaurant, take-out, counter service, delivery, and drive-thru. (See 20 Best Restaurant Chains for Birthdays)

C. Oldest Fast Food Chain List

Fast food has been around the corner for a long time, even before you knew it. Let’s look at the list of world’s oldest fast food chain or the oldest fast food restaurant that has made our meal times easy and delicious for decades. 

1. Yoshinoya (Yoshigyū in Japan)

It is one of the oldest fast food restaurants. This multination fast food chain was founded in 1899 by Eikichi Matsuda in the Nihonbashi fish market in Tokyo, Japan. The 1923 Great Kanto earthquake destroyed the market. But in 1926, the restaurant was re-located in the new Tsukiji fish market, Tokyo. With its motto tasty, low-priced, and quick, the chain opened its first 24-hour store in 1952 and has been growing ever since then. They are considered the second-largest beef bowl (gyudon) restaurant. (See Interesting History of French Fries)

2. Nathan’s Famous Hot Dogs

Nathan’s Famous Hot Dogs
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This hot dogs-based fast food restaurant chain was founded in 1916 in Brooklyn, New York, making it one of the oldest fast food franchises. Nathan Handwerker, an immigrant from Poland, and his wife Ida Handwerker borrowed $300 from friends to start a hot dog stand. Ida made the hot dog recipe from this oldest fast food chain, and the special mix was her grandmother’s recipe. The food and price were the main attractions of the stand because they sold a hot dog for 5 cents while their rivals sold it for 10 cents. Later on, other fast foods were also included on the menu. (See What is Yellow Mustard Made of?)

3. A & W

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Roy W. Allen, an American entrepreneur, opened a local root beer stand in Lodi, California. It was for a celebration held in honor of the homecoming of the World War I heroes. He purchased the beer recipe from the pharmacist and threw a party for the entire city. This was established on 20 July 1919. After two years, he partnered with Frank Wright, his former employee, which is how A & W was formed. The name contains the initials of the last name of both partners. (See 21 Types of Stinky Cheese)

4. White Castle

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When Walter Anderson was looking to open his 4th diner, he came across Edgar Waldo A. Ingram, who was an estate and insurance agent. They both used their experiences in their respective fields to start the White Castle restaurant chain on 13 September 1921. And soon, it became the famous American regional hamburger restaurant chain. (See 12 Best Keto Starbucks Drinks and Food Options)

5. Harry Ramsden

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Among the oldest fast food chain listed, this fast-food chain restaurant is named after its founder, Harry Ramsden, who founded it in a wooden hut in White Cross Guiseley, West Yorkshire, in 1928. This place is famous for its fish and chips, but they also have some assorted themed dishes. As per the restaurant’s official website, it is the longest-established restaurant chain in Britain. (See 54 Best Dip for Chip Fries and Tortilla)

6. Carvel

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This ice cream joint began in 1929 when an American businessman and entrepreneur discovered that soft ice-creams had more demand than hard ice-creams. Therefore, he started making his own frozen custard, slowly gaining fame in Hartsdale, New York. Later, various other ice cream options were added to the menu, but the oldest and original one never lost its charm. (See 40 Lesser Known Facts About Fast Food)

7. Sanders Court and Café (KFC)

KFC chicken and fries: 24 oldest fast food chains in the world 7
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In his early teenage years, Harland Sanders was switching between different professions. Finally, in 1930, in his 40s, he took over a Shell filling station on US Route 25. He started serving travelers the different recipes like country ham, steaks, and fried chicken that he learned in his childhood. All these dishes were from his dining table, but he purchased the large filling station within a year and kept expanding with his pan-fried chicken as the main attraction. (See The Origin of Fried Chicken)

8. Dairy Queen

This tasty ice-cream joint among the oldest fast food chain lists began when John Fremont McCullough and his son Alex developed a soft-serve ice cream formula. They decided to share it with their friend Sherb Noble, owner of an ice cream store. The recipe was such a hit that Noble made 1600 servings in two hours. This was when McCollough and Noble opened the first Dairy Queen ice cream parlor on 22 June 1940. (See 10 Most Common Food Cravings and their Alternatives)

9. McDonald’s

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This America-based multinational fast food restaurant chain began when two brothers, Maurice McDonald and Richard McDonald, decided to start a hamburger outlet. The first joint began on 15 May 1940 in San Bernardino, California. They focused on speedy services and named it Speedee. Their first mascot was a hamburger with a hat on top, but later on, to attract their child customers through television advertising, they changed it to a happy clown, Ronald McDonald, in 1965. (See Is Ronald McDonald Real?)

10. Dunkin’ Donut

Dunkin’ Donut
Image by Danielle Giberti from Pixabay

This American multinational coffee and doughnuts company was founded when an American entrepreneur Bill Rosenberg opened a restaurant selling doughnuts and coffee under the name Open Kettle. It was 1948 in Quincy, Massachusetts (a suburb of Boston), but in 1950, the name was changed to Dunkin’ Donuts. And in 1955, Rosenberg started franchising. (See Why is Coffee Called a Cup of Joe?)

11. In-N-Out

In-N-Out: 24 oldest fast food chains in the world 8
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It is the regional fast food restaurant chain in America that was founded in 1948 by Esther Lavelle Snyder and Harry Snyder. They both were business persons. Among the oldest fast food chain list, the founders came up with the idea to install a 2-way speaker box connected to the kitchen. This innovative idea made sending and receiving orders easier, turning the location into an early version of a drive-thru. (See 20 Best Drive-Thru Restaurant Chains in America)

12. Jack in the Box

The founder Robert Oscar Peterson was already a proud owner of various successful restaurants when he decided to convert one of his locations in El Cajon Boulevard in 1951. Earlier it was known as Topsy’s Drive-In, but it needed a new name as per the circus-themed decor. Jack in the Box was among the first drive-thru with an intercom system that made it faster and more famous. No sooner were all the joints renamed Jack in the Box than with necessary development. (See 270 Really Delicious National Food of the World)

13. Burger King

Burger King
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This fast-food joint began after two Americans got inspired by McDonald’s success. Keith Kramer and his uncle Matthew Burns purchased a special grill machine and began the joint by naming it Insta Burger King in Jacksonville, Florida. It was during 1953–1954 that this joint started with their famous burger, Whooper. Later, the joint was renamed Burger King, and by 1967, this fast-food restaurant started growing with chain restaurants worldwide.

14. Denny’s

Among the oldest fast food chain list, it is a diner-style restaurant chain that was originally a coffee shop named Danny’s Donuts. Harold Butler, an American entrepreneur, and Richard Jezak founded Danny’s Donuts in 1953 in Lakewood, California. A few years later, Harold changed the concept to a 24-by-7 coffee shop that actually was always open. In the coming years, Harold kept making changes to the menu and the style of his restraints. (See 65 Little Known Fast Food Chains In America)

15. Sonic 

This American-based drive-in oldest fast food restaurant was founded on 18 July 1953, shortly after World War II, in Seminole, Oklahoma. Troy N. Smith Sr. returned to his hometown after the war and started working as a milkman and delivering loaves of bread. Soon he decided to purchase a diner named Cottage Café but soon sold it to open his first fast-food chain under the name Troy’s Pan full of Chicken. The food and place both expanded with time, and in 1959, the name was changed to Sonic. Must read What’s the Difference between a Cafe and a Restaurant?

16. Waffle House

Waffle House
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The founders Joe Rogers Sr. and Tom Forkner met each other during a house deal when business tactics of Roger inspired Tom, and they both decided to open a restaurant on 5 September 1955 in Avondale Estates in Georgia. Forkner had prior experience in the food industry and suggested the name Waffle House because it was the most profitable item on the list of 16 menu items. This was another of the oldest fast food chain list. (See What is the History of Waffles?)

17. Subway

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Fred DeLuca decided to start a drive-in but was short of funds. He borrowed $1000 from his friend Peter Buck to start the project. He started the joint on 28 August 1956 and named it Pete’s Drive In: Super Submarines. They served submarine sandwiches, beverages, salads, and wraps. The joint soon flourished, and in 1968, it was renamed Subway. (See 45 Delicious Sandwich Bread Wrap Alternative)

18. IHOP (International House of Pancakes)

This is an America-based multinational pancake house restaurant chain. The founders, Jerry Lapin, Al Lapin Jr., and Albert Kallis, opened the first restaurant of the International House of Pancakes, in 1958, in Los Angeles, California. Yes, the restaurant was not always IHOP, and this abbreviation was adopted in 1973 for marketing purposes. (See Why Do We Eat Pancakes on Shrove Tuesday?)

19. Pizza Hut

Pizza Hut
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This America-based multinational fast food restaurant chain was founded on 15 February 1958 in Wichita, Kansas. Two brothers, Dan Carney and Frank Carney, opened the first outlet during their college days. The name Pizza Hut was not accidental because their first outlet resembled a hut. Soon it started offering dining and take-away both. Their signature Pizza Hut-styled restaurant was designed in 1963 by George Lindstrom, an architect from Chicago, and came into use in 1969.

20. Domino’s


The journey of this American multinational pizza restaurant chain began when two brothers, Tom and James Monaghan, purchased a small pizza restaurant on 9 December 1960 in Ypsilanti, Michigan. Soon after that, they expanded and purchased two more pizzerias in 1965. Among the oldest fast food chain list, the name Domino’s was not enlisted unless one day an employee referred it after a pizza delivery. The three dots on the logo represents their initial three restaurants. (See What Does Dominos Logo Mean?)

21. Arby’s

Two American brothers, Leeroy Raffel and Forrest Raffel, decided to start a hamburger joint in Boardman, Ohio. They started this oldest fast food franchise on 23 July 1964. Initially, their main focus was hamburgers, but various other fast-food items were slowly added to the menu. The restaurant became famous, and in the 1970s, it started expanding with more chains in various locations. 

22. Chick-Fil-A

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S. Truett Cathy, an American author, businessman, investor, and philanthropist, was already a proud owner of a fast-food business. It was much later, in 1946, when he discovered a pressure fryer could cook a chicken sandwich in the same time duration as that of a hamburger. Then, on 23 March 1946, the restaurant was founded in Hapeville, Georgia. (See 107 Delicious and Amazing Ways to Cook Potatoes)

23. Thank God its Friday or Tgi’s Friday (Fridays in the United Kingdom)

Thank God its Friday
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The founders, Alan Stillman and Daniel R. Scoggin, decided to open a restaurant on 15 March 1965 on the East side of Manhattan. There were no public places for people aged 23–27 to socialize with each other. They decided to bring the comfortable party experience to the public with a restaurant that provided casual dining and American cuisine. This is why this restaurant from the oldest fast food chain list was named Thank God Its Friday.

24. Horn & Hardart

This fast-food restaurant chain is among the first to get patented vending machines. Joseph Horn and Frank Hardart joined hands to open their first restaurant in Philadelphia on 22 December 1988, which was more like a room than a restaurant. They introduced New Orleans-styled coffee at their shop, and in no time, it started attracting locals. In 1898, they incorporated themselves as the Horn & Hardart Baking Company. 

Well, we guess you enjoyed your journey to the past to get to know the oldest fast food chain list. It is time for you to share this with your friends and family about the oldest fast food franchise and oldest fast food restaurant.  (Also read Burrito vs Taco vs Fajita)

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