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Look at all the swell prizes a kid could win for being a Burger Chef secret agent back in 1966! (Courtesy Indiana State Library)

Look at all the swell prizes a kid could win for being a Burger Chef secret agent back in 1966! (Image: Indiana State Library)

Business:  Burger Chef Systems

 Date of Ad:  April 6, 1966

Location:  1300 West 16th Street, and across the nation

Years of Operation: 1958-1996

Notable:  Over a dozen years before the Happy Meal, local fast food stalwart, Burger Chef was in the game of enticing youth and their parents’ wallets to area restaurants with the secret agent contest seen above. Burger Chef was an industry leader in gimmicks to attract children. The Fun Meal, established in the early 70’s, featured the cartoon characters Burger Chef and Jeff and included colorful boxes and toy prizes. Their Star Wars toys remain a sought after collectible to this day.

Additionally:  In 1956, brothers Frank and Donald Thomas started a concept to promote their Sani-Serv line of ice cream machines and automatic flame broilers. Seeing how lucrative the fast food business was, they opened the first Burger Chef restaurant at 1300 west 16th Street in 1958. Using the franchising model, the chain grew to 1,200 locations by the late 1960’s, just a few French fries short of McDonald’s. The Thomas brothers sold out to General Foods in 1968. The chain suffered under new ownership and was sold again in 1982 to the parent company of Hardee’s. Slowly but surely, restaurants converted or closed, with the last holdout closing in 1996. Every once in awhile, local Hardee’s stores will roll out the “Big Shef sandwich,” but it’s just not the same!

These A frame buildings were commonplace in the 1960's. The television series Mad Men featured a fully restored building of this type in a recent season. (Courtesy eBay)

These A- frame buildings were commonplace in the 1960’s. The television series Mad Men featured a fully restored building of this type in one of its last seasons. (Image: eBay)

Merchandising was a key component to the success of Burger Chef. You could even have your location along your H-O scale railway! (Courtesy eBay)

Merchandising was a key component to the success of Burger Chef. You could even have a Burger Chef along your H-O scale railway! (Image: eBay)

Burger Chef and his sidekick Jeff were the animated spokesmen of Burger Chef throughout the late 60's and 70's. (Courtesy eBay)

Burger Chef and his sidekick Jeff were the animated spokesmen of Burger Chef throughout the late 60’s and 70’s. (Image: eBay)

5 responses to “Sunday Ads: Be a Secret Agent and Win the Jackpot!”

  1. Jimmy Kenney says:

    Nice review of a once great place, Jeff. Who knows what may have happened if the Thomas brothers hadn’t sold out in 1968…thanks for your good work!

  2. Mike says:

    What a blast from the past – what a rare adventure to slip out of Tech HS campus to grab a burger and shake for lunch 😉
    Sure miss that chain… McDonald’s has always seemed a poor excuse for a replacement burger joint.

    Funny how what seemed like an institution can be proven to be just another failed business venture.

    Thanks for the imagery

  3. Anonymous says:

    5

  4. John Hale says:

    Thanks for the article, brought back memories. I worked at the Burger Chef on 34th Street just east of Mohler Road during high school at the nearby late, great Northwest HS in the late ‘60s. Having gone to college in South Carolina and experiencing Hardee’s food while there, it was indeed a sad day when the news came out they bought out Burger Chef.

  5. Anonymous says:

    Indianapolis Architect Harry Cooler designed the Burger Chef restaurant, including the area for the patented broiler, potato station, and mid-Century Modern design. He even included drawing the Chef peering down onto the restaurant and customers. Mr. Cooler was a hard-working man, and gave so much to Indiana. I think it would be really nice if his contribution to the Burger Chef design might be recognized. He contributed to the “fun” of Burger Chef.

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