Burger Chef was an American fast-food restaurant chain founded in 1954 in Indianapolis, Indiana. The chain 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 located on Stadium Drive and started their own restaurant in Indianapolis, Indiana. Another of their trade names from that company was "Sani Serv". In 1957, they opened their first Burger Chef. The first Burger Chef was located at 3401 West 16th street in Indianapolis near Speedway, a location now occupied by a Burger King. Another store, possibly the second, was located on East 38th street across from the Indiana State Fairgrounds and included the main training center. Their first hamburgers sold for 15 cents. In the late 1950s, they created the first "value combo" as a 15¢ hamburger, 15¢ fries, and 15¢ vanilla, chocolate, or strawberry milkshake. It was known as the "Triple Treat." Free Triple Treat coupons were often given as promotional items. Note that the total price was no less than if the items were purchased individually.

Burger Chef was popular and spread across both the West Coast of the United States and the East Coast, eventually becoming second only to McDonald's in terms of number of locations. They offered a signature double-burger called the Big Shef, and later the quarter-pound hamburger Super Shef. Subsequently, they pioneered the "Works Bar", where customers could dress their hamburgers with condiments and vegetables exactly as they wanted. The "Works Bar" required that customers now order their hamburgers "with" or "without". "With" hamburgers were dressed by the kitchen staff and "without" were dressed by the customer.

In 1968, the chain was purchased by the General Foods Corporation, which continued its rapid expansion. The chain's mascots were called Burger Chef (voiced by Paul Winchell) and Jeff (the chef's juvenile sidekick). In the early 1970s, the chain introduced first the Funburger, followed by the Funmeal, with specially-printed 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. Other premiums included flexi-disc recordings with more stories, and a token that could be redeemed for a frozen treat. When McDonald's introduced their similarly themed Happy Meal in 1979, the chain sued McDonald's, but ultimately lost.

General Foods proved unable to support the company's growth. In 1982, the corporation sold Burger Chef to the Canadian company Imasco, which also owned Hardee's. Many locations were converted into Hardee's restaurants, except those located near existing Hardee's.

The franchisees of those locations were allowed extra time to convert to other brands; one Burger Chef in Cookeville, Tennessee, through the courts, was able to keep its original name until 1996, when it finally changed its name to Pleaser's. Several Burger Chefs in southern Indiana had converted to the Pleaser's name after the initial buyout. The Pleaser's in Cookeville remained open until 2002, while the building itself was destroyed by fire in 2008. (An apartment complex now sits on the site.)[2] A Burger Chef in Danville, Illinois, was still open as of June 2013 operating under the name Schroeder's Drive-In with many of the burger chef burgers and a works bar.[3]

Hardee's brought back the Big Shef hamburger on a limited-time basis in 2001 at select Midwestern locations, and has done so again as of April 2007.[4]

Trademark suitEdit

In January 2007, a suit was filed against Hardee's Food Systems in the U.S. Patents and Trademarks Office by River West Brands, LLC, of Chicago, Illinois, 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.[5]



  • Early 1980s – "Nowhere else but Burger Chef"[6]
  • Late 1970s – "We really give you the works."[7]
  • Mid 1970s – early 1980s – "You get more to like at Burger Chef."[8][9]
  • 1970s – "There's more to like at Burger Chef"[10] and "Burger Chef goes all out to please your family"[11]
  • Early 1970s – "We'll always treat you right"


External linksEdit