Why You Wouldn't Recognize The First Long John Silver's

Long John Silver's has been around for a long time. It might be hard to believe that Long John Silver's was once the largest fast-food fish chain in the United States, per Eat This, Not That! However, since reaching such a coveted status and totaling 1,500 locations at the height of its success, the quick-service eatery has lost as much as 50% of its stores. Is it that people are shunning the fried fish and hush puppies Long John Silver's built its name on in an effort to eat healthier? We don't know the answer for certain, but we do know that before this fish joint was serving up its fish and fries, its humble beginnings had nothing to do with fish at all. 

In fact, according to Reference for Business, in those early days, before Long John Silver's became Long John Silver's, its founders were serving up a totally different type of sandwich that had nothing to do with the sea. Mental Floss shares that this company's fish tale started in Kentucky in 1969. But before it evolved into everyone's favorite fish-and-chips shop, and before the founders sought inspiration for the restaurant's name from the antagonist in "Treasure Island" by Robert Louis Stevens, they were slinging burgers not fried fish.

The founders first started a hamburger stand

Per Reference for Business, before Jerome Lederer formed the company that would result in the genesis of Long John Silver's, Lederer tried his hand at a hamburger stand in 1929 in Shelbyville, Kentucky. It was small — just six seats — and he called it the White Tavern Shoppe. While the United States had been hindered by the Great Depression, the White Tavern Shoppe proved profitable until World War II and food rationing. But when the economy finally found itself on the upswing, Lederer started Jerrico Inc. and opened a restaurant known as Jerry's Five and Dime. While the menu went through its own evolution, Jerry's Five and Dime found its focus to be most successful when it was on burgers.  

As the story goes, Lederer soon found himself in business with Warren W. Rosenthal, who ultimately took charge and ran Jerrico after Lederer passed away. Not too long after, Rosenthal decided to create a fast-food restaurant that could compete with the H. Salt Fish and Chips chain. Enter Long John Silver's. Rosenthal quickly found that fast-fried fish proved profitable, and as the saying goes, the rest is history.