Krystal (restaurant)

The Krystal Company
Industry Food
Founded 1932 (1932) in Chattanooga, Tennessee
Headquarters Atlanta, Georgia
Number of locations
over 1,800[1]
Key people

Rody Davenport, Jr., J. Glenn Sherrill, Founders

Douglas R. Pendergast President, CEO[2]
Products Fast food, including hamburgers, french fries, chicken, dairy desserts, and signature breakfast offerings.
Owner Argonne Capital Group
Number of employees

Krystal is an American fast food restaurant chain headquartered in Atlanta, Georgia.[4] It is known for its small, square hamburger sliders with steamed-in onions. Krystal moved its corporate headquarters from Chattanooga, Tennessee, where it had been based since 1932, to Atlanta in early 2013.[5]


A Krystal restaurant in the French Quarter, New Orleans.

Founded on October 24, 1932, in Chattanooga, Tennessee, during the first years of the Great Depression, entrepreneur Rodney Davenport Jr. and partner J. Glenn Sherrill theorized that even in a severe economic upheaval, "People would patronize a restaurant that was kept spotlessly clean, where they could get a good meal with courteous service at the lowest possible price." The restaurant's first customer, French Jenkins, ordered six "Krystals" and a cup of coffee, all for the price of 35¢, thus proving their theory true.[6]

Davenport had visited White Castle restaurants, taking notes of successful features, before setting forth on his own venture. Davenport and Sherrill set up the first Krystal at the corner of 7th and Cherry Streets in Chattanooga. The first Krystal was a modular building constructed in Chicago and shipped to Chattanooga for final installation. The oldest Krystal still in operation is located on Cherokee Boulevard in Chattanooga's Northshore District. Krystal is the seventh or eighth-oldest hamburger chain in the United States (the oldest being White Castle)[7] and the oldest in the South.

Regarding the origins of the Krystal name, company legend states that Davenport and his wife were riding down a mountain road when Mrs. Mary McGee Davenport saw a lawn ornament in the shape of a crystal ball. While gazing at the lawn ornament, Mrs. Davenport commented that since Davenport and Sherrill felt cleanliness was a cornerstone of the concept, they should name the restaurant Crystal for "clean as a crystal" - yet with a "K" to add a little twist.[7] Krystal's restaurants through the years often sported a crystal ball on the top.

A Krystal restaurant in Calhoun, Georgia.

From the early 1930s through the early 1960s, the chain served much of its food, not in take-out containers, but on inexpensive porcelain dish ware with the "Krystal" moniker. The waiters and waitresses wore white uniforms, and food was offered through counter service. In the 1950s, Krystal opened its first drive through window - which most locations maintain today.[8] A 2013 study of seven fast food franchises found that service at Krystal drive throughs was the slowest, with an average wait time of 218 seconds. It was, however the most accurate in terms of fulfilling orders.[9]

In the 1950s, cake doughnuts were served as a breakfast and dessert item. From about 1970 until 1986, "bone-in" kettle fried chicken and related sides were offered. These items were sometimes sold from a stand-alone addition to the hamburger restaurants.

DavCo, a division of Krystal, operated Wendy's franchises in the 1960s and 1970s. Between 1983 and 1988, DavCo also operated the Po' Folks family restaurant chain.[10]

Current business

Krystal restaurants, both company-owned and franchised, operate in Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, South Carolina, and Tennessee. There is also a Krystal in Bristol, Virginia, (which lies on the Tennessee-Virginia border), one in West Memphis, Arkansas (directly across the Mississippi River from Memphis, Tennessee), and one in Murphy, North Carolina. Krystal has also operated several restaurants in Texas over the years. Krystal is often compared to the Midwestern restaurant chain White Castle, and other than the Bowling Green, Kentucky and Nashville, Tennessee markets, the two restaurants' market areas do not generally overlap.

Krystal maintained its corporate headquarters in Chattanooga from 1932 to 2013, and has been owned by Argonne Capital Group since early 2012. Previously, Port Royal Holdings, Inc. owned the chain from 1997-2012, expanding the chain to a peak of over 420 locations in 11 states in 2002, before downsizing and closing dozens of locations. Ten new locations were added in 2011, 11 more in 2012-2013, and 25 more are planned for 2014 throughout the Southeast.

In the late 1990s, Krystal emerged from a bankruptcy proceeding and a sale of assets that placed majority ownership outside the heirs of the founding families. Krystal's period of structural change and uncertainty in the late 1990s has regenerated into a successfully reborn restaurant chain with reported customer satisfaction and an evolving menu.((CN))

A tray of Krystal burgers and french fries

Krystal's product line centers on a square hamburger patty slider with a steamed bun, together with diced onions, pickle, and mustard, and collectively called a "Krystal". Small hot dogs called "pups" are also featured menu items. The chain has occasionally expanded its menu to include larger burgers, such as the "Big Angus Burger," a full-size hamburger made of 100% Angus beef.

Krystal is known for a diverse breakfast menu, which includes a made-to-order country breakfast, meat and egg sandwiches, and biscuits, as well as other items. One particularly popular breakfast item is the Scrambler, which includes a layered stack of scrambled eggs, sausage, grits, and cheese served in a styrofoam cup.[11] Other variations of the Scrambler also feature pancakes, sausage gravy, or southwestern-style spices.

In 1998, Krystal introduced the Krystal Chik, a fried chicken breast filet slider served on the signature steamed square bun.[8] Krystal Chiks are extremely popular, along with other chicken, chili, and dessert items. Krystal continues to focus on their core menu products, but is also in the process of redesigning and upgrading their stores to appeal to a mobile and multi-tasking audience.

In the mid 2000s Krystal tested a prototype for a new high-tech drive-in featuring individual television monitors for ordering and watching television (audio accessed via car stereo), and indoor and outdoor seating areas with multiple big-screen television monitors and free digital jukeboxes.[12] Krystal's website is interactive and supports mobile computing, and the Krystal Locater helps customers fulfill their "Krystal Kraving" wherever they might be in the Southeast.

Competitive eating

Joey Chestnut ate a record 103 Krystal hamburgers in eight minutes at the Krystal Square Off in 2007 and celebrates with Patrick Bertoletti (Left), "Krystal Kitty", and Bob Shoudt (Right).

Krystal restaurants are the host of the Krystal Square Off, a competitive eating contest. The current world record is 103 Krystal burgers consumed in 8 minutes by Joey Chestnut, set at the 2007 competition.

Singer Crystal Gayle (real name Brenda Webb) says she took her professional name from the restaurant chain at her sister Loretta Lynn's suggestion.[13] Cormac McCarthy refers to the restaurant in his novel Suttree.


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