The Delicious Rise, And Sad Fall, Of Burger Chef

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As a kid growing up in the 1970s and 80s in Ohio, there was no greater fast-food treat than Burger Chef. Lately, I realized that Burger Chef was one of those fond childhood memories that I had pretty much forgotten that is, until we first started contemplating this idea for American Roadtrip. I’m pretty sure the food was good, although to be honest with you, that’s not what I remember. What I remember is how much fun the Burger Chef experience was. How they completely catered to kids, and might have very well been the first major fast-food chain to do so. The key item from a kid’s perspective was the Burger Chef Funmeal. While Happy Meals may seem commonplace today, they weren’t in the early 1970s until Burger Chef created and launched the idea in 1973 (five years before McDonald’s did the same). The Funmeal included a small burger, fries, drink and a dessert, and came in a special box containing puzzles, riddles, stories and toys. Burger Chef was also one of the first chains to create characters and build stories and content around them. At first it was Burger Chef and Jeff, but then, sometime in the mid 1970s, the chain got into the monsters theme and added the Fangburger family to the mix a gang of burger-loving vampires. Genius!

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One of the ways that Burger Chef brought its characters to life was through audio. A routine component of the Funmeal was a flimsy, plastic record. You could take it home, throw it on your Fisher-Price player, and listen to the adventures of Burger Chef, Jeff and the Fangburger family. (For those of you not familiar with the reference to a record, think vinyl only in this case, plastic vinyl. Kind of have to see it, and hear it, to believe it.)

 

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The most memorable aspect of Burger Chefs marketing to kids was its partnership with Star Wars. As the movies first launched in 1977, Burger Chef was one of the studios primary marketing partners. It started with a collectible poster series, free with the purchase of a Coke, and spread to Star Wars-specific Funmeal boxes, collectors glasses and other items. There’s even a classic TV commercial of C-3PO and R2-D2 visiting a Burger Chef to collect the posters, only to be joined by Storm Troopers, Darth Vader and others. To put this in perspective, while today there is Star Wars product everywhere you turn, the licensing engine of the movie studios was not nearly that evolved in the late 1970s. And while the growing legions of Star Wars  fanatics could buy action figures in 1977, the selections were limited. The chance to get posters and other movie-themed items was not something this kid or many was going to pass up.

 

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Click “Next” To See Burger Chef’s Star Wars Commercial


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