Jack in the BoxRobert Peterson owned and operated a number of restaurants, including the circus themed Topsy Turvy Drive In, when he opened the first Jack in the Box restaurant in 1951. This first location was built in Long Beach, California and featured a giant clown head that gave the place its name. While Topsy Turvy used car hops like other drive in restaurants, the Jack in the Box had two pull up windows for processing multiple orders. This may have been the origination of this common drive thru organization technique.

The company retained operation of all 180 locations that were developed through 1968. That year Peterson’s company sold the chain to the Ralston Purina Company, which opened up franchising rights for interested entrepreneurs. Jack in the Box struggled in the 70s to compete with giants like McDonald’s, but in the 80s returned by appealing to more affluent and urban adults with a wider and more sophisticated menu.

The chain was hit hard by the death of four children from E. Coli contaminated burgers sold by Jack in the Box during the early 90s, but has begun to become more popular due to a new advertising push that began in the mid 2000s. Nearly 1000 of the chain’s 2200 locations are found in California, with the rest in Western states like Arizona and Washington. A few East Coast locations have been opened since 2000 in states like North Carolina.Jack in the Box Jumbo Jack burger

The Jumbo Jack is a 1/4th pound hamburger that remains the classic choice at Jack and the Box, but variations like the Sourdough Jack and All-American Jack are other national menu items. Mini-Sirloin Burgers and the Big Cheeseburger with two types of cheese round out the burger menu. The chain also sells chicken sandwiches and a variety of ethnic food items like eggrolls, rice bowls and tacos.