Business_news THEN AND NOW: How fast-food menus have changed over the years


In-N-Out in the 1960s.


  • McDonald’s Big Mac, Burger King’s Whopper, andPopeyes’ chicken sandwich— while these items are now undeniably iconic, at one point they were all brand new.
  • Business Insider looked at howfast-food restaurant menushave changed over the years, from McDonald’s to Chick-fil-A and In-N-Out.
  • Some menu changes brought about astronomical sales, whileothers outraged customersto the point of social media rants and even violence.
  • Visit business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

When theMcDonald brothers openedtheir first restaurant in 1940, it served barbecue food, while Taco Bell’s first location had just five items on the menu. But over time, these restaurants have perfected their offerings, ultimately becoming the fast-food giants we know today.

Business Insider took a look back at how the menus at McDonald’s, Burger King, Chick-fil-A, In-N-Out, White Castle, Taco Bell, and Popeyes have evolved over time.

Here’s how fast-food menus have changed over the years.

Business_news When the McDonald brothers opened their first restaurant, it served barbecue food.

The exterior of a McDonald’s drive-in fast-food restaurant, which advertises 15-cent hamburgers, Chicago, Illinois.

Hulton Archive/Getty Images

At the original McDonald’s Bar-B-Q restaurant in San Bernardino, California, customers could pull up to the restaurant for carhop service. Future locations would switch to the walk-up model to order from the restaurant’s large menu.

Business_news In 1948, the McDonald brothers reduced the restaurant’s offerings down to just nine items to make their Speedee Service system even more efficient.

McDonald’s menu.

Tim Boyle/Getty Images

Thenew menuincluded hamburgers, cheeseburgers, soft drinks, milk, coffee, potato chips, and a slice of pie for dessert. In 1949, potato chips were swapped with french fries and McDonald’s began selling milkshakes.

Business_news In 1965, McDonald’s introduced the Filet-O-Fish sandwich nationwide.

An ad for the Filet-O-Fish.

Mike Blake/Reuters

According toSmithsonian Magazine, it was created in 1962 by Lou Groen, a McDonald’s franchise owner in Cincinnati, Ohio, after he realized hamburger sales were declining on Fridays during the season of Lent.

Groen then decided to create a sandwich featuring fish instead of beef. Three years later, it was made available nationwide and has remained on McDonald’s menus ever since.

Business_news As a result of the coronavirus pandemic and trying to streamline their operations, McDonald’s is now offering a limited menu.

McDonald’s drive-through during the coronavirus pandemic.

AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin

McDonald’s stopped serving all-day breakfastand removed its chicken tenders, grilled chicken sandwich, a few burgers, and salads from menus nationwide.

“To simplify operations in our kitchens and for our crew, and ensure the best possible experience for our customers, we are working with our franchisees and local restaurants to focus on serving our most popular choices and will begin temporarily removing some items from the menu,” Bill Garrett, McDonald’s senior vice president of operations, said in a statement to business Insider.

While some items, like the Bacon McDouble, are back,others have been permanently cut from the menu.

Business_news Burger King opened its doors in Jacksonville, Florida, in 1953, as “Insta-Burger King.”

An early Burger King restaurant.

Burger King Facebook

The chain, which quickly grew to be the second-largest fast-food chain in the country, behind McDonald’s, served 18-cent flame-broiled burgers, milkshakes, and fries.

Business_news In 1957, Burger King released its signature burger, the Whopper.

Burger King Whopper.


The Whopper was 37 cents compared to Burger King’s original burger, which cost 18 cents. The Whopper came with sauce, cheese, lettuce, pickles, and tomato, all piled on top of a larger patty.

Today, Burger King still broils and flame-grills its burgers.

Business_news More recently, Burger King revolutionized its menu with the addition of the Impossible Whopper, a meat-free version of its iconic sandwich.

Close-up of Burger King menu board with an advertisement for the Impossible Whopper.

Smith Collection/Gado/Getty Images

Burger King’s Impossible Whopper was hugely successful for the chain. According to CNN, Burger King reported a 10% increase in sales following the launch of the Impossible Burger in 2019.

However, while the burger is plant-based, Burger King received criticism after a customer sued the company for serving the burger that’s not actually 100% vegan. Since the patties are cooked on the same grills as traditional meat burgers, they may come into contact with meat by-products. Burger King responded saying the chain never advertised the burger as vegan or promised to cook them in a particular way.

Business_news The Dwarf Grill in Hapeville, Georgia, opened in 1946. It would eventually become what we now know as Chick-fil-A.

Dwarf Grill menu.

business Insider/Hayley Peterson

The business, owned and operated by founder Truett Cathy, started off by selling standard items like waffles, breakfast foods, sandwiches, and burgers. 

Business_news However, everything changed when Chick-fil-A created its original chicken sandwich in 1964.

Chick-fil-A chicken sandwich.


According to Chick-fil-A, Cathy tested hundreds of recipes for the original chicken sandwich before landing on a winner — a fried chicken fillet with two pickles on a toasted butter bun.

Though Chick-fil-A has expanded immensely since then, the chicken sandwich has remained virtually the same.

Business_news In 1989, Chick-fil-A added a grilled chicken sandwich to its menu.

Chick-fil-A grilled chicken club sandwich.

Hollis Johnson

Introduced as a“health-conscious option”for Chick-fil-A customers, Cathy introduced the original grilled chicken sandwich alongside the deluxe grilled chicken sandwich, which included the same pickle-juice-marinated grilled chicken, pickles, and white bun, along with lettuce and tomato.

In 1993, Chick-fil-A added the grilled chicken club sandwich to its menu. Then, in 2017, the chain announced it would be releasing a gluten-free bun option.

Business_news In-N-Out became California’s first drive-thru hamburger stand when it opened in 1948.

In-N-Out in the 1960s.


In 1958, In-N-Out replaced its bottled drinks with fountain service, offering customers beverages like Pepsi Cola, Nesbitt Orange, and Hires Root Beer. According to In-N-Out, a12-ounce soda cost just 10 centsat the time.

Business_news In 1963, In-N-Out began serving its famous Double-Double burger.

Double-Double burger on the menu.

Irene Jiang/Business Insider

In 1975, In-N-Out began serving milkshakes. A few years later, In-N-Out opened itsfirst location with a dining roomin Ontario, California.

However, while some new items have been added since 1948, the menu is still pretty similar to the original menu, offering basic fast-food items like burgers and fries.

Business_news White Castle is regarded as the first fast-food hamburger chain in America. It opened its doors in 1921.

White Castle.

White Castle

Founded by Billy Ingramas a family-owned business, the fast-food establishment originally sold 5-cent, small, square hamburgers by the sack. They would come to be known as “sliders.”

In 1943,White Castle would sell hot dogsand fried eggs instead of its iconic burgers as a result of the war’s beef rationing.

Business_news In 1962, White Castle began selling cheeseburgers.

White Castle sliders on a grill.

win McNamee/Getty Images

This addition came 15 years after the chain secured a patent for its“holy” burgers— each burger is still grilled with five holes punched into it to add more flavor and help them cook faster.

Business_news Today, White Castle still sells its iconic sliders.

White Castle food.

Hollis Johnson

The sliders are also sold in grocery stores nationwide, meaning you can get your White Castle fix right at home. In 2018, White Castle revolutionized its menu by offering the plant-based Impossible Slider.

Business_news Popeyes first opened in 1972 as “Chicken on the Run” in the New Orleans suburb of Arabi, Louisiana.

Popeyes restaurant in 2000.

David McNew/Newsmakers/Getty Images

Therestaurant originally served traditional, Southern-style fried chicken. However, after the restaurant faced lackluster sales for a few months, founder Alvin C. Copeland Sr. changed the restaurant’s name to “Popeyes” and began selling spicy New Orleans-style chicken.

Business_news In 1983, Popeyes began selling buttermilk biscuits.

Popeyes restaurant.

Brad Kemp / AP Images

The biscuits are now regarded as one of Popeyes’ most iconic menu items and come with the chain’s combo meals.

Business_news Before its famous chicken sandwich hit the menu, Popeyes mainly sold fried chicken and seafood.

A Popeyes restaurant takeout order menu is seen on February 21, 2017, in Miami, Florida.

Joe Raedle/Getty Images

The chain launched its Butterfly Shrimp Tackle Boxin 2009, while Chicken Waffle Tenders and the Cajun Surf & Turf hit menus in 2013. 

Something is loading.


Fast Food
Fast food items
Menu items

Chevron icon
It indicates an expandable section or menu, or sometimes previous / next navigation options.

Read More