The untold truth of Freddy's Frozen Custard & Steakburgers

Though a multi-location, fast-casual restaurant, Freddy's Frozen Custard & Steakburgers has a number of distinct offerings on its menu. Sure, it's burgers and fries, but they're burgers with crispy, layered pieces of steak, shoestring fries with special seasonings and secret sauce, frozen custard, and Vienna Beef hot dogs. And that's in addition to cheese curds, chicken tenders, onion rings, chicken sandwiches, even a veggie burger.

What we're trying to say is Freddy's is special, prompting long drive-thru lines, a vast expansion, and a die-hard fanbase of Fredheads.

While the company has remained relatively drama-free in its 18-year history, there is still a sweet and simple origin story, a few tales of success, and a number of interesting accounts scattered throughout Freddy's still-happening journey.

Starting with two brothers and a business partner wanting food to take them back in time — to a recent surge in sales because of the COVID-19 pandemic — this is the story of Freddy's Frozen Custard & Steakburgers.

Two brothers named Freddy's Frozen Custard & Steakburgers after their dad

The first Freddy's Frozen Custard & Steakburgers store opened in August 2002 at the southwest corner of 21 Street and Tyler Road in northwest Wichita, Kansas. Since then, the company has grown to more than 380 locations in the United States, not to mention three in Dubai.

Two brothers, Bill Simon and Randy Simon, along with Bill's business partner Scott Redler, set out to open a simple, single restaurant that served food reminding them (and hopefully, a few others) of childhood — which, in their minds, just means high-quality ingredients.

According to The Wichita Eagle, when the Simon brothers and Redler were kicking around names, Freddy's was always one of their top choices. The alliteration of Freddy's and frozen was one reason, but it'd also be naming the eatery after the brothers' father, Freddy Simon.

Freddy himself is a former wholesale liquor company employee, who earned a purple heart serving in World War II after being raising on a farm in Kansas. The name stuck, and it's his face that decorates Freddy's locations nationwide. Those locations even do cute things like offering frozen custard on Freddy's birthday that will cost as many cents as Freddy's new age.

Freddy's Frozen Custard & Steakburgers is one of the few places with fry sauce

For some, sauce is for the main dish, the main appeal of a burger, or possibly the only reason for ordering chicken nuggets. For others, all sauce is reserved for the fries. Barbecue sauce, ranch, the ketchup, even the mayonnaise. And for many, the ketchup and the mayonnaise mixed together — which has actually been dubbed fry sauce — is the only way to go.

It's said fry sauce was invented in the Salt Lake City area in the 1940s and '50s by Don Carlos Edwards. He ran a barbecue restaurant that served the orangey sauce, when his restaurant became the first location of the Arctic Circle fast food restaurant chain. For many fans of that chain, the fry sauce is the main appeal.

Freddy's Frozen Custard & Steakburgers knows this, and as its own offering, designed Freddy's Famous Fry Sauce. It's, of course, a secret recipe, but it's said to be a mayonnaise and ketchup mix, with a little pickle juice and Freddy's special seasoning thrown in. It's such a hit that 18-ounce canisters of the stuff are available online as well as grocery.

There's also a jalapeño version. And you know there are copycat recipes.

Of course, Freddy's fry culture is already pretty famous. Freddy's shoestring fries, those ultra-thin, piping hot, and generously salted starchy strands, are a favorite among fast food enthusiasts. They are, naturally, seasoned with Freddy's Famous Fry Seasoning. But even with all that, the fry sauce is worth a dip.

Yes, there are secret menu items at Freddy's Frozen Custard & Steakburgers

The Incredible Hulk from Taco Bell. The Burritodilla from Chipotle. The Pizza Sub Melt from Subway. These are all outstanding secret menu items found at fast-casual eateries across the country. And yes, Freddy's Frozen Custard & Steakburgers has secret menu items, too.

According to The Wichita Eagle, there's the burger dog secret menu item. That's a classic Freddy's steak burger topped with one of its Vienna hot dogs. There's also a BLT sandwich, and a Nutter Butter frozen custard "concrete," which was apparently invented by an employee.

But Freddy's isn't extremely quiet about custom menu items. The chain even recommends a few via the FredHead Feed, including a chili steak burger and barbecue steak burger.

And to appease vegetarians and/or calorie conscious customers, Freddy's offers all steak burgers and chicken sandwiches as lettuce wraps upon request. And to take it one step further, you can order a side or entree salad, which customers in the know usually top with grilled chicken, bacon, tomatoes, onions, and shredded cheese.

Freddy's Frozen Custard & Steakburgers shares a hometown with other famous chains

Freddy' Frozen Custard & Steakburgers famously originated in Wichita, Kansas. The original store, or simply the Wichita West location, still stands, and is as busy as ever.

And while Freddy's is certainly a success story of an eatery not going bust, Kansas' largest town is in no way unfamiliar with a successful restaurant chain cropping up out of its cityscape. Other incredibly famous fast food franchises have emerged from Wichita. One includes the 1958-established Pizza Hut — also started by two brothers. In fact, the Simon brothers were Pizza Hut franchisees before starting Freddy's.

Another big fast-food chain name to come from Wichita is White Castle. And though Edgar Waldo "Billy" Ingram and Walter Anderson launched the country's first fast food burger chain in Wichita in 1921, no locations of the slider restaurant remain in the entire state of Kansas. Another popular chain founded in Wichita is Taco Tico.

Is it something in the water? Does Wichita just make a special kind of restaurant-minded folks? Whatever it is, we're grateful for this city and all the deliciousness it's brought into the world. 

Freddy' Frozen Custard & Steakburgers opened its first international location in the Middle East

Mallrats of the United Arab Emirates rejoice — there is most likely a Freddy's Frozen Custard & Steakburgers at your favorite hang.

Much like Raising Cane's Chicken Fingers, Freddy's is popular in the Middle East. The first international location of Raising Cane's Chicken Fingers opened in 2015 in Kuwait City, while it was announced in early 2018 that Freddy's would be opening its first international location in Dubai during the fall of that year.

There was a bit of a lag on that opening date, as the first globe-crossing location was actually opened in July 2019 in the Dubai Mall in the downtown sector.

Freddy's had partnered with Tastebuds Group, a company that took the reins on the steak burger joint's Middle Eastern expansion, promising to open a second location on the ground floor of the Mall of the Emirates, also in Dubai, just a few weeks later (which did happen). Since then, a third location has opened in Dubai, this time in the Nakheel Mall, in December 2019.

One of the Freddy's Frozen Custard & Steakburgers co-founders has since died

Though there were three co-founders of Freddy's Frozen Custard & Steakburgers, only two still remain. Unfortunately, Bill Simon, one of the chain's original founders, died on December 17, 2016. He was 61 and died from complications of cancer.

According to The Wichita Eagle, though Simon studied accounting at Kansas State University, and worked as a CPA after graduating in 1978, he had a lot of experience in the food service industry. He was the vice-president of Comcoa, a franchisee of a few Pizza Hut locations, and was a partner in seven locations of Timberline Steakhouse. This was all, of course, before Simon helped open the first location of Freddy's in northwest Wichita in 2002.

By late 2018, the Bill Simon Memorial Scholarship Foundation was launched in his honor, and as a nod to Simon's entrepreneurial spirit. The scholarship is designed for Freddy's staff members so they may pursue post-secondary or vocational program degrees.

Freddy's Frozen Custard & Steakburgers continues under the leadership of Randy Simon, Bill's brother, and business partner, Scott Redler.

Despite its growth, Freddy's Frozen Custard & Steakburgers is still pretty humble

Franchise locations of Freddy's Frozen Custard & Steakburgers have ballooned to nearly 400 locations since its first Kansas location in 2002. On a November day in 2016, Freddy's even opened five locations in a 24-hour span, one of which being the 50th location to open that year. As of July 2020, Freddy's is still opening additional stores.

However, despite its rocketing success, Freddy's remains slightly under the radar. According to Thrillest, Freddy's method is pretty much the opposite the similar steak burger go-to chain Shake Shack, which expanded from its original New York location with fanfare, press releases, campaigns, etc. Instead, Freddy's appears to be letting the food speak for itself.

All this quiet dignity most likely stems from the fact the three original founders only ever planned to open the one location in Wichita.

Nor is the Freddy's team a bunch of product pushers. In a 2020 Forbes interview, Randy Simon was asked about the thinking behind offering steak burgers in a climate where Americans are moving toward more balanced diets. He simply replied, "We've never suggested that anyone choose Freddy's as a steady diet every day."

Freddy's Frozen Custard & Steakburgers is extremely interactive with fans on social media

Let's continue with the mindset that Freddy's Frozen Custard & Steakburgers is one of the humbler multi-franchise fast food chains in the United States. If this concept is not as easy to swallow as its signature turtle sundae, may we present exhibit A — Freddy's social media presence.

One concept of Freddy's is its in-person customer service — over-the-top friendly. This seems to translate to the chain's Twitter feed as well as Facebook timeline and Instagram posts. The majority of the posted content across these three platforms (and mostly likely others) are from customers, down to the simplest retweet.

Postings are mostly photos of food — close-ups of the shoestring fries, a hot dog basket, a to-go custard — usually shot from a Freddy's location, inside the car immediately post drive-thru or splayed across the dining room table at home. Each image comes with a photo credit, i.e. the social media handle of FredHeads across the county. And there's a special subset of pet-friendly postings, meaning photos of dogs usually enjoy a #pupcup of frozen custard.

These postings are frequent, seemingly genuine, and marked with a wide array of hashtags. There's #FreddysDriveThru, #ILoveFreddys, #FreddysWorthIt, and #FreddysAtHome, just to name a few. If you want your 15 minutes of social media fame, snap a colorful shot at Freddy's and tag them — there's a good chance it'll happen.

Freddy's Frozen Custard & Steakburgers has a wide array of random merchandise

In addition to its expansive menu — not quite at a Cheesecake Factory level but there are a good amount of items considering this is a simple burger joint — Freddy's Frozen Custard & Steakburgers has a wide array of merchandise.

We mean it, the online store alone is serious. It goes well beyond gift cards, hats, and T-shirts — though it has plenty of both.

For instance, there are Freddy's scarves and pom-pom beanies. But there are also Freddy's dress socks, a Freddy's baby blanket, sunglasses sporting the Freddy's logo on the arm, a Freddy's backpack designed for a laptop and other electronic cargo, and a sheet of six Freddy's temporary tattoos. There's even a golf hat clip with a Freddy's logo. There are even Freddy's shoelaces.

Basically, if you're a huge fan of reddy's Frozen Custard & Steakburgers and you want everyone to know it, Freddy's website has you more than covered. 

Freddy's Frozen Custard & Steakburgers also offers food truck services

Though not roaming far and wide across the country, Freddy's Frozen Custard & Steakburger does offer food truck services. That is, it does in two cities.

Naturally, a Freddy's food truck exists in Wichita, the home base for otherwise immobile eateries. According to The Wichita Eagle, the food trailer was launched with the intention of joining food truck events or as a treat to companies with more than 500 that, "want to get everyone started off on a great weekend," co-founder Scott Redler said. Everything on the Freddy's menu is apparently available for catering — steak burgers, custard, hot dogs, you name it — while the truck's appearance at special events will serve from a more streamlined menu.

Those hoping to keep tabs on the Freddy's food truck may check out the Facebook page designed just for that food truck and its locations.

In addition, Houston acts as host to another Freddy's food truck. The mobile steak burger slinger makes appearances at breweries, weddings, graduations and school events, and more. Again, to keep up on the Houston-area Freddy's food truck, check out their Facebook page.

An employee of Freddy's Frozen Custard & Steakburgers was spotlighted for a good deed

The staff at Freddy's Frozen Custard & Steakburgers have made the news a time or two. At least one of those times was for going above and beyond to do what was right.

Once, 17-year-old Kayla Blackmon discovered $1,600 while sweeping the floors of a San Antonio location of Freddy's in 2013. Many might expect a teen to pocket a discovery like that, but not Blackmon. After spooling through the surveillance tapes with a manager — a task that likely took quite a long time — they located the rightful owner. The man had apparently lost the family Christmas vacation cash (we're all picturing Chevy Chase now, right?) while grabbing a meal at Freddy's. The relieved customer peeled off $100 for Blackmon, who got an additional $100 bonus from her Freddy's manager to boot.

Apparently, Freddy's is all about taking care of their own and rewarding good deeds. We can all get on board with that.

Not all employees have good things to say about Freddy's Frozen Custard & Steakburgers

A more recent news story involving an employee of Freddy's Frozen Custard & Steakburgers is a little more serious.

In June 2020, NPR reported on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's recent recommendation for citizens to travel by car, alone, versus carpooling or using public transit to slow the spread of COVID-19. But what, NPR asks, if you don't have a car?

The story briefly covers Jamila Allen, a Freddy's employee in Durham, North Carolina, with an hour-plus bus commute to her job. At Freddy's, she is behind a counter, separated from customers, but on the bus, she's much more at risk even with a mask and social distancing.

Allen says if she were paid $15 an hour, versus the current $9.35, she could afford a personal vehicle, and travel more safely. She's since joined other fast-food workers in Fight for $15, calling attention to fast food wages they are say are too low.

Freddy's Frozen Custard & Steakburgers has been thriving during the pandemic

Speaking of the current pandemic, it doesn't seem to have slowed progress at Freddy's Frozen Custard & Steakburger. The fast-casual eatery was already on a hot streak, seeing record-breaking success in 2019 sales systemwide.

In a March 2020 interview with Forbes, co-founder Randy Simon said sales weren't affected by the coronavirus till mid-March but he felt there would be an overall "negligible impact" to the chain. He did expect to see falling sales for the short term, but said they would make a strong return. He said Freddy's was already planning to end the year with 40 additional locations, which were already underway and being constructed.

"Coronavirus aside, we'll see continued growth of opening 40 to 45 restaurants a year," co-founder Scott Redler told Forbes.

That projection seems to be on track so far. One new location in Jackson, Tennessee needed police assistance with the drive-thru line. Another new location in Spanish Fort, Alaska, has already earned public attention from its drive-thru line as well. And since that, new locations have opened in Madison, Alaska; Paducah, Kentucky; Las Vegas, Nevada; and Coralville, Iowa.

Thanks to loyal FredHeads, it doesn't seem like a pandemic is enough to keep this chain fast-growing chain down.