The Oldest Fast Food Chain In The US Might Surprise You

Before McDonald's, Burger King, Wendy's, and plenty more fast food chains were ever even heard of, there was White Castle. Celebrating its 100th anniversary this year, White Castle has been crowned by Father Time as the oldest fast food restaurant in the United States, if not in the world, serving up its famous sliders to hungry customers across its over 360 locations (via for an entire century. 

According to White Castle's website, in 1921, the family-owned business was founded by Billy Ingram, who started selling small, square hamburgers for only five cents at the restaurant's first location in Wichita, Kansas. Fast-forward to 2014 and Time magazine named White Castle's iconic slider as the "most influential" burger of all time. Time also noted that customers were able to watch their tiny burgers being ground up through the restaurant's windows, helping squash fears stemming from Upton Sinclair's best-selling novel from 1906, The Jungle, which highlighted incredibly unsanitary conditions in the meat industry.

Despite a smaller footprint, White Castle has serve its famous sliders to customers for a century

Overall, White Castle's numbers are quite smaller than its major competitors. According to Eat This, Not That!, in November 2020, it boasted under 400 locations in 13 states as compared to McDonald's or Burger King locations, which can be found worldwide. Additionally, the outlet shared that White Castle had about 10,000 employees while Subway, yet another power player in the fast food industry, employed over 384,000 people.  

However, despite a more modest footprint, Eat This, Not That! also mentioned that White Castle predates McDonald's by nearly two decades, and to make matters more surprising, the restaurant started serving customers long before establishments like Burger King, KFC, and Sonic, all of which opened in the 1950s.

Part of White Castle's long-standing success could be credited to the restaurant's authentic and laid-back business model. Jamie Richardson, White Castle's vice president of marketing told Forbes, "We don't take ourselves too seriously. If someone said that feels corporate, that's the worst insult we can endure." So if you're now craving one of White Castle's perfectly-sized sliders, you can find locations in the East Coast, Midwest, Florida, Scottsdale, Arizona, and Las Vegas.