The Untold Truth Of Fuddruckers

It may not always be your first choice when hunger strikes, but there's no doubt the name Fuddruckers is somewhere in the back of every burger lovers' mind. For one thing, the chain burger restaurant has been around for more than three decades, and for a while, it had more than 500 locations spanning the whole country, according to the Washington Business Journal. Not to mention that, once you hear a distinctive name like Fuddruckers, it pretty much sticks with you. So many of us have Fuddruckers memories from childhood — and many of them involve lots of that unlimited cheese sauce (via Reddit).

Fuddruckers prides itself on having the "World's Greatest Hamburgers", per the words on its colorful sign, and while that may be an audacious declaration to make, Fuddruckers is prepared to bet on it with quality food, endless options, and curated casual comfort (and did we already mention the unlimited cheese sauce?). What else do you need to know, besides where the totally goofy name comes from? In fact, there's quite a lot to the history of this longstanding burger joint. This is the untold truth of Fuddruckers.

Fuddruckers started out as a Texas institution

They say everything is bigger in Texas. So maybe it's no surprise that the restaurant chain boldly claiming to serve up the "World's Greatest Hamburgers" was founded there. The first Fuddruckers opened its doors in San Antonio, Texas in 1980 and it didn't take long for word about their tasty burgers and fresh ingredients to spread. Within three years, there were more than 20 Fuddruckers locations all over the Lone Star State. Then, in 1983, the company went public and used the subsequent cash flow to expand throughout the U.S. during the '80s and '90s (via Burger Beast). 

In the last two decades, the truth is that Fuddruckers has seen its fair share of hard times, and so has been forced to close many of its restaurants. But it's fighting hard to keep its doors open and still serve up burgers to hungry diners. Today, the company's website shows that 95 locations remain in business across 25 states and in Puerto Rico, along with a handful of international restaurants located in Canada, Mexico, and Panama. And true to its roots, there are still substantially more Fuddruckers locations in Texas than anywhere else.

Fuddruckers falls between fast food and traditional dining

These days, if you're craving a burger, you've got a lot of options to choose from, ranging from quick-service to fine dining. You can hit the drive-thru at McDonald's for a fast meal, grab a no-frills diner burger if you want to keep it casual, or even splurge on decked-out gourmet burgers that are increasingly showing up at nice restaurants around the country. But if you can't make up your mind, Fuddruckers might be the perfect place for you. The burger chain falls somewhere between a fast food joint and a traditional, sit-down restaurant. For one, there's no table service there. Instead, customers order at the counter and wait for their names to be called. But there are real dishes and silverware instead of disposable packaging and servers to take drink orders, all in a cozy, kitschy, and retro environment.

It's exactly what founder Phil Romano was aiming for. In an interview with Inc., Romano recalled that, back in Fuddruckers' early days, the restaurant was meant to cultivate a grown-up hamburger eating experience, something just beyond fast food burgers that were taking Americans by storm. At the time, it was a relatively new dining concept (via The New York Times), and competitors like Culver's and Five Guys quickly emerged and helped to encourage a new kind of dining experience.

You'll never guess where the name Fuddruckers comes from

Even if you've never eaten a burger there in your life, you're probably familiar with Fuddruckers. A name like that is pretty hard to forget, which is the whole point. Many have questioned where this strange and almost obscene name comes from, and many more have gotten the answer so very wrong. The real truth behind it may very well surprise you.

Turns out that Fuddruckers is a random and entirely made-up restaurant name that founder Phil Romano pretty much came up with on a whim (via Inc.). It was originally called Freddie Fuddruckers, per The New York Times, but the Freddie part was quickly dropped. Thrillist further suggests that Fuddruckers' name was somehow inspired by an urban legend about a fictitious steam-powered airline called Fudpucker World Airlines, although the connection between a joke t-shirt and a burger restaurant is pretty unclear. Regardless, Fuddruckers is a name that sticks with you, and that's really all that matters at the end of the day.

Fuddruckers takes freshness very seriously

In a world where burgers are dime a dozen, it can be difficult for a burger-focused restaurant chain to differentiate itself in a way that really matters. For Fuddruckers, the key to standing out from the pack is a commitment to the freshest ingredients possible. And it goes way beyond the toppings bar at each location, which is full of fresh produce. Fuddruckers also bakes their sesame seed buns in-house every day.

Of course, for a burger joint, the freshness factor comes down to the meat more than anything else. Fuddruckers boasts that it only uses premium cut beef that is always fresh and never frozen. And to prove that, for a long time the restaurants used to feature big glass windows that allowed customers to peer into the kitchen and watch butchers freshly trim and grind beef into burger patties (via The New York Times). You won't find that in Fuddruckers restaurants these days — perhaps squeamishness got the best of many diners — but the chain's dedication to fresh quality food remains.

Your burger options are basically endless at Fuddruckers

Fuddruckers strives to serve up the best burgers you've ever had, and they've come up with a pretty clever way to do it — by letting customers themselves "be the maker" of their own burger. After cooking up your burger exactly to your liking, Fuddruckers sends hungry diners to a toppings bar to load up on all the veggies, condiments, and cheese sauce that their heart desires. Basically, you can customize the burger of your dreams at Fuddruckers.

Of course, if your dream burger is one you don't want to have to think that hard about, Fuddruckers also offers a range of specialty burger creations to choose from. You can try out fully made orders like the Bourbon Burger, loaded with special sauce, bleu cheese, and caramelized onions, or the Southwest Burger, which is topped with bacon, pepper jack cheese, and guacamole. Furthermore, regional Fuddrucker franchises may also offer up their own unique burgers that you can't get anywhere else.

You can get a whole lot of meat at Fuddruckers

Sometimes when a burger craving strikes, it takes a whole lot of beef to hit the spot, and so Fuddruckers is here to help make it happen. The chain lets customers choose from either , ½, or ⅔ pound burger patties on their everyday menu. Make it a double and you could wind up with over a pound of meat to chow down on, if you're up for the challenge. And if you're up for something even bigger, Fuddruckers has you covered, too. Just keep an eye out for their occasional burger challenges. The Fuddruckers Fat Tuesday challenge, for example, dares customers to put away a whopping 3-pound burger and a pound of fries in an hour to win a $20 gift card. 

Is it worth it? That's up to you, your stomach capacity, and maybe your doctor to decide. If you miss your chance in February, the chain also offers the same massive burger and fries challenge on National Cheeseburger Day in September.

At Fuddruckers, you won't get fries with that

Rest assured that you're going to get a tasty burger on a freshly baked bun and all the topping combinations you can imagine when you go to Fuddruckers. But you're not gonna get fries with that. That's because the chain doesn't serve traditional french fries at its restaurants. But, if you're missing what's normally a classic burger accompaniment, don't worry, as you can still get a starchy side to go with your burger. 

Instead, Fuddruckers offers thick-cut potato wedges on their menu, which get you pretty close to thick-cut steak fries, but arguably better. These wedges are crispy on the outside, soft on the inside, and they're even better when dipped in Fuddruckers cheese sauce. For potato lovers looking for a trendier and somewhat healthier alternative, there are also sweet potato fries on the menu. And if potatoes aren't your thing at all, you can always go for Fuddruckers onion rings, which Serious Eats says are even better than the wedges.

You can get famous cheese sauce at Fuddruckers

The truth is that you won't be able to get french fries at Fuddruckers (though you can get pretty close), but you can definitely get cheese sauce. And honestly, that just might be enough to console you if you're still really upset about the french fries thing. The restaurant serves up an unlimited amount of its original, signature cheddar cheese sauce at its toppings bar, and you should definitely take advantage. It's good on burgers, it's good on potato wedges ... heck, it's good all by itself, though you might get an odd look or two if you eat it with a spoon. And if you like to spice things up, Fuddruckers also serves up a jalapeño cheddar cheese sauce that packs a bit more of a spicy punch.

If you haven't tried the cheese sauce, the word on the street is that you're seriously missing out. People seriously rave about this stuff. One Reddit user called it "killer." Others admitted they love dumping it all over basically everything. Serious Eats even goes so far as to call the cheese sauce a fundamental part of the Fuddruckers experience. And if that's not enough to convince you, this cheese sauce is so beloved it even has its own Twitter fan account.

Fuddruckers began experimenting with burgers before it was cool

Fuddruckers promises exceptional quality beef that tastes great and is cooked to perfection. But they also know that the "World's Greatest Hamburgers" might need to be made with something more exciting than regular old beef, and we're not just talking about turkey burgers (although Fuddruckers has those, too, if you're interested). The restaurant has actually been serving up a whole line of new and interesting burgers for customers to try — if they're feeling wild enough — since 2010 (via Natural Products Insider). That's well before alternative burger meats became the more popular trend that they are today (per Delish). 

These days, adventurous diners at Fuddruckers can try out the American Kobe burger, which is a rich, fatty, and delectable upgrade from a traditional hamburger. Or they can go even more outside the box and order Fuddruckers' buffalo or elk burgers. And at some locations, it gets even more interesting, with burgers on the menu made from lamb, boar, and even ostrich.

Fuddruckers' burgers are award-winning

Fuddruckers isn't just boasting about having some of the greatest hamburgers you can get. As it turns out, they've got the accolades to back it up, too. The restaurant chain was named R&I Magazine's Better Burger Winner in 2010, for one (via Fuddruckers). Fuddruckers has also snagged a spot on the Franchise Times Top 200 list. More recently, Nerdwallet named it the number two top franchise opportunity for 2021. Fuddruckers also claims to hold several titles for Best Burger in many cities around the country.

While these awards apply to Fuddruckers as a whole, one burger in particular really stands out from the crowd, at least in the South. In 2014, the chain's Fudd 66 Green Chili Cheeseburger was crowned as the winner in the New Mexico State Fair Green Chile Cheeseburger Challenge (per the Albuquerque Journal). The burger beat out 10 other competitors, reigning supreme thanks to its relatively high fat content (24%), melted American cheese, and that signature toasted Fuddruckers bun. As the local Fuddruckers director told the Albuquerque Journal, "It's simple and it's meant to be simple so it can speak for itself."

Fuddruckers also once held a burger world record

Since it first opened its doors in 1980, Fuddruckers has been dedicated to the "obsession" of making burgers better than anyone else. And sometimes, better also means bigger. At least, it did back in 2006 when Fuddruckers managed to break the Guinness World Record for the world's largest commercially available burger (meaning one that customers could come in and simply order off the menu). The burger, created by the Fuddruckers at Foxwoods Resort & Casino in Connecticut, weighed in at 29.6 pounds and was available for anyone to chow down on — hopefully with all their friends, for the sake of that person's digestive system — for $250 and with 48 hours of forewarning to kitchen staff (via Supersized Meals).

Unfortunately, the world record title did not last long. Within a year, a restaurant in Thailand swept it up with a massive 78.5-pound burger, according to Chowhound. And that didn't last long either. The record has been broken several times since then. As of 2017, the world record holder has been Mallie's Sports Grill & Bar in Detroit, Michigan, which serves up a mind-bending 1,800-pound monstrosity that costs a mere $8,000, as Food & Wine reported.

The owner of Fuddruckers is behind other famous chains

While Fuddruckers may have been the idea that really launched founder Phil Romano to success, he certainly didn't stop there. You might be surprised to discover that the father of Fuddruckers is also the brains behind a number of other popular, well-known restaurant brands. Just a few years after Fuddruckers got off the ground, Romano stepped down from the company and moved on to his next venture, casual Italian chain Romano's Macaroni Grill (via The New York Times).

It seems to be Romano's modus operandi — come up with a new idea, get it off the ground, then walk away and start gearing up for the next big thing. Entrepreneur went so far as to call him a "Restaurant Artist" for his efforts. Romano, who bills himself as the MAD Entrepreneur, has created 25 restaurant concepts over the course of his career (via Fortune). Six of them, including Fuddruckers and Macaroni Grill, have gone on to become national restaurant enterprises, along with Spageddies, Cozymel's, Rudy's Country Store and BBQ, and eatZi's Market & Bakery.

Fuddruckers has struggled to stay in business recently

After seeing rapid growth and skyrocketing success for decades, Fuddruckers has more recently been fighting to stay in business, one burger at a time. In 2010, after the financial recession affected the restaurant industry across the board, the parent company of Fuddruckers was forced to file for bankruptcy (via Reuters). At that point, two factors helped save Fuddruckers from meeting a similarly dire fate. One was the fact that more than 100 locations were franchise-owned and able to operate separately from the parent company. Then, in April of that year, Houston-based Luby's bought the brand for $61 million (via Reuters).

Things were looking up until around 2019 when the struggling parent company announced it was looking to sell most of its corporate-owned Fuddruckers locations to franchisees (via Associated Press). The plan accelerated in 2020 in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, which again devastated much of the restaurant industry, as Luby's announced it was liquidating its assets and dissolving all its businesses that didn't get sold off (via TODAY). Thankfully for all Fuddruckers fans out there, Black Titan Franchise Systems closed a deal in June to buy the burger business. CEO Nicholas Perkins, whom Black Enterprise notes is the first African-American to own a national burger franchise, told the Houston Chronicle he plans to continue building the Fuddruckers brand and hopefully grow it back to its prime, when there were hundreds of restaurants around the country.