Who Remembers Burger Chef???
This postcard is of the famous “Big Shef” by Burger Chef.
It was a promotional bulk mailer sent out to residents of Kalamazoo County and the surrounding communities inviting them into the wonderful world of Burger Chef.
So who does remember Burger Chef? Did you know that we had four of them in Kalamazoo including the one I used to visit right here in Portage across from the shopping mecca of Southland Mall. The locations of these burger joints here in Kalamazoo were: 930 Douglas Avenue (demolished), 606 Riverview Drive (demolished), 2105 Lake Street (the building is still standing and has been converted into Julianna’s Restaurant) and 6133 South Westnedge Avenue (the site of the restaurant was across the street from today’s Noodle and Company).
What many people don’t realize is how important Burger Chef actually was. The chain started the same year as Burger King (1954) in Indianapolis, Indiana and quickly spread throughout the country. At it’s height it actually rivaled McDonalds and was the second largest fast food chain in the country. In 1972 Burger Chef introduced its “Funmeal” designed for kids which included a sandwich, fries and a drink in a special tray that featured games, jokes and a toy. This preceded McDonald’s “Happy Meal” by seven years. In fact, the release of the “Happy Meal” resulted in a lawsuit by Burger Chef which was ultimately lost.
Another interesting fact is that Burger Chef was the first to jump on the “Star Wars” band wagon releasing both “Funmeal” premiums that consisted of punch outs on the Funmeal tray that could be made into robots, etc. and a set of four Star Wars posters that you would receive with the purchase of a large drink – for the whopping price of…are you ready…49 cents.
Unfortunately the owner (General Foods) was unable to support the growth of the chain so it sold it to the Canadian Company, Imasco, in 1982. Imasco also owned the Hardee’s chain so virtually all Burger Chef’s were converted over to the Hardee brand. By 1996 Burger Chef finally faded into fast food history.