During the war people drove their cars as little as possible. Gas and tires were rationed. Car manufacturing stopped as factories turned to making tanks, Jeeps and other military vehicles. There were drive-ins around, but not many. And business wasn’t all that good.
After the war families piled into cars again. New highways were built. Drive-Ins boomed. America’s love affair with driving and drive-ins truly began at the end of the 1940s. You could get a hamburger at one drive-in and watch a movie at another. Eventually, the drive-in concept was tried in drug stores, libraries and even liquor stores.
The drive-in restaurant is an old-time favorite that has been around since the idea was conceived by J. G. Kirby. He created what is believed to be one of the first drive-in restaurants with a ‘barbecue’ theme and a suitable name—The Pig Stand. It was built on the Dallas-Fort Worth Highway in 1921 at the beginning of the “Roaring Twenties.” Kirby’s idea was actually an update of the chain ‘destination restaurant,’ a theory begun nearly 70 years earlier by an Englishman named Frederick Henry Harvey. From then on, the ‘craze’ caught on, and people were yearning for more. They liked the idea of eating in their cars. They liked the unique style of these restaurants. They liked the speedy service that they all offered. However, the very idea of a drive-in is, as the name states, to “drive in” to the lot. Without the inception of the automobile, there would never have been a drive-in built in Glendale or anywhere else for that matter.
Here are some of the more successful drive-in applications.
- Dairy Queen: The first Dairy Queen store opened in Joliet, Illinois, just before the war began. It introduced a new kind of dessert treat – ice cream that wasn’t frozen hard but was “soft served.” The inventors claimed that soft serve tasted better because it didn’t freeze the taste buds. The real story of Dairy Queen was the concept of “franchising.” At the start of World War II there were fewer than 10 Dairy Queen stores in America. After the war, more franchises were sold and new products, like malts and shakes were introduced. By 1950, there were 1,446 Dairy Queen stores. Today, Dairy Queen is a subsidiary of Berkshire Hathaway, Inc. based in Omaha, and the chain is one of the largest fast food groups in the world with more than 5,900 restaurants in the U.S., Canada and 20 other countries. This franchise serves as a market for agriculture products across the United States.
- A&W: The soft drink business struggled during the war because its key ingredient – sugar – was rationed. But the post-war years saw A&W outlets triple as GI loans gave many young men a start in business. The number of A&W drive-ins grew along with the number of cars. A&W Drive-In started in 1919 in California when a young man set up a roadside drink stand along the route of a parade honoring World War I veterans. When A&W’s founder and creator retired, Nebraskan Gene Hurtz took over and formed the A&W Root Beer Company.
- McDonald’s was actually a latecomer to the drive-in scene. Two brothers, Dick and Maurice McDonald, actually opened their first drive-in restaurant in San Bernadino, CA, in 1940. But the business didn’t take off until the early 1950s when Ray Kroc, an Illinois-based distributor of a milk shake maker called the Multimixer, teamed up with the brothers who were running eight Multimixers and had a menu with only nine items on it. They featured hamburgers that were prepared super fast. Kroc partnered with the brothers to franchise the brand and eventually bought them out. Today, there are McDonald’s restaurants in 120 countries around the world serving 54 million people every day.
Here is a quick guide to the homepages of some extant Drive-in restaurants in America:
- A&W Since 1919.
- Ardy & Ed’s Oshkosh, Wisconsin.
- Arnold’s drive-in in Decatur, Indiana.
- Big Daddy’s Drive-In in South Carolina.
- Big Daddy’s Drive-In in Auburn, Washington.
- Bob’s Big Boy Broiler reopened in Los Angeles.
- Bummies drive-in in Bluffton, Indiana.
- Charlie’s Drive-In Restaurants in Hortonville, Wisconsin.
- Dick’s Drive-In Restaurants in Seattle.
- Didleys Metamora, Illinois.
- Eat’n Park Chain of drive-ins.
- Fender’s Drive-In Restaurant Holland, Mass.
- The Frosted Mug Drive-In Closed/abandoned. Chicago area.
- Hi Lite Drive In Marshall Michigan.
- JB’s Drive In Restaurant and appliance repair.
- Keller’s Drive-in Dallas.
- La Salle Drive-In Quebec, Canada.
- Lendy’s fan page about Lendy’s drive-in.
- Louis Original Drive In Restaurant Knoxville, TN.
- Mel’s Drive-In famous California drive-in.
- Pat’s Drive-In Tuscon, AZ
- Pilot Butte Drive-In Bend, Oregon.
- The Rebel Drive In “Home of the Lottaburger” Cleveland Tennessee.
- Rudy’s Drive-In for over 70 years!
- Sonic, America’s Drive-in™ Popular franchise.
- Tom’s Drive-in in Wisconsin.
- Triple XXX Family Restaurant, Since 1929 West Lafayette, IN
- The Varsity A famous Atlanta drive in still going strong.
- Wayne’s Drive Inn Lawton, Oklahoma.
- White Spot Drive-Ins Since 1928
- Wright’s Dairy Rite in Staunton, Virginia since 1952.
- XXX Root Beer Drive-In in Issaquah, WA.
- Wot-A-Dog Drive-In in New Carlisle, OH.