Burger Chef

Burger Chef
Industry Restaurant
Fate Sold to Hardee's
Successor Hardee's
Founded 1954 (1954)
Defunct 1996 (1996)
Headquarters Indianapolis, Indiana, United States
Products Hamburgers, fast food

Burger Chef was an American fast-food restaurant chain. It began operating in 1954 in Indianapolis, Indiana, expanded throughout the United States, and, at its peak in 1973, had 1,050 locations.[1] The chain featured several signature items, such as the Big Shef and Super Shef hamburgers.

In 1982, the General Foods Corporation, then-owners of the Burger Chef trademark and name, divested itself of the restaurant chain, gradually selling to the owners of Hardee's. The final restaurant to carry the Burger Chef name closed in 1996.


In 1954, Frank and Donald Thomas patented the flame broiler in their parent company General Equipment Corporation and started their own restaurant in Indianapolis, Indiana. In 1957, they opened their first Burger Chef.

A Burger Chef restaurant pictured in the mid-1960s

Burger Chef spread across the United States, following a strategy of opening outlets in smaller towns.[2] By 1972 its number of locations (1,200) was only surpassed by McDonald's (1,600).[3] They offered a double burger, called the Big Shef, and later the quarter-pound hamburger, Super Shef. Subsequently, they added the Works Bar, where customers added their own toppings to hamburgers.

In 1968, General Foods Corporation purchased the chain and continued its rapid expansion. At the time of the purchase by General Foods, Burger Chef had 600 locations in 39 states.[4] The chain had two mascots: Burger Chef (voiced by Paul Winchell) and Jeff (the chef's juvenile sidekick). In the early 1970s, the chain introduced the Funburger and the Funmeal, with packaging that included stories about Burger Chef and Jeff's adventures and friends (including the magician Burgerini, vampire Count Fangburger, talking ape Burgerilla, and Cackleburger the witch), with riddles, puzzles, and small toys. When McDonald's introduced their Happy Meal in 1979, the chain sued, but ultimately lost.

In 1982, General Foods sold Burger Chef to the Canadian company Imasco, which also owned Hardee's, for $44 million.[5] Imasco converted many locations to Hardee's restaurants and let franchises and locations near existing Hardee's locations convert to other brands. Remaining restaurants that did not convert to Hardee's or new names and branding simply closed.

The Burger Chef logo used in the 1980s

Hardee's brought back the Big Shef hamburger for a limited time in 2001, 2007, and 2014 at some Midwestern locations.[6][7]

In 2014 the final season of the television drama Mad Men featured the fictional ad agency Sterling Cooper & Partners pursuing Burger Chef as a client.[8]

Trademark suit

In January 2007, River West Brands, LLC, of Chicago, Illinois, sued Hardee's Food Systems in the US Patents and Trademarks Office, claiming "abandonment" of the Burger Chef trademark. On April 16, 2009, River West Brands dropped their petition for cancellation, and both parties agreed to pay their own attorneys' fees.[9]



See also


  1. McDonald, John F. & McDonald, John P. (2002). Lost Indianapolis. Arcadia Publishing. ISBN 9780738520087.
  2. Sanders, Scott R. (2009). Burger Chef. Arcadia Publishing. p. 9. ISBN 978-0-7385-6098-4.
  3. Shefrin, Hersh (14 December 2015). Behavioral Risk Management: Managing the Psychology That Drives Decisions and Influences Operational Risk. Palgrave Macmillan US. p. 409. ISBN 978-1-137-44562-9.
  4. "General Foods Says It Plans To Buy Burger Chef Systems". Wall Street Journal. October 16, 1967. p. 17. (subscription required (help)). Alternate Link via ProQuest.
  5. "Hardee's to Buy Burger Chef". New York Times. December 10, 1981.
  6. "Hardee's(R) Brings Back Burger Chef(R) Big Shef(TM) Hamburger for a Limited Time in Select Markets". PR Newswire (Press release). April 23, 2007. Retrieved February 6, 2014.
  7. Kessler, John (May 19, 2014). "Hardee's brings back the Burger Chef Big Shef for a LTO". Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Retrieved December 10, 2014.
  8. Dodds, Eric (May 19, 2014). "Mad Men: A Brief History of the Real-World Burger Chef". Time (magazine). Retrieved May 20, 2015.
  9. "Withdrawal of Cancellation" (PDF). Trademark Trial and Appeal Board, US Patent and Trademark Office. 16 April 2009.
  10. "Nowhere else but Burger Chef". Trademarkia.com. Retrieved 8 August 2013.
  11. "Burger Chef". Copyrightencyclopedia.com. Retrieved 8 August 2013.
  12. "You get more to like at Burger Chef". Trademarkia.com. Retrieved 8 August 2013.
  13. "Double Delight (advertisement)". St. Petersburg Times. February 12, 1977. p. 9B. Retrieved 8 August 2013.
  14. "There's more to like at Burger Chef". Trademarkia.com. Retrieved 8 August 2013.
  15. "Triple Treat Yourself (advertisement)". Owosso Argus-Press. December 17, 1970. p. 22. Retrieved 8 August 2013.

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