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Personal recollection: I added this entry as the Farmington location although there were hundreds of Burger Chef's all over. I will use this page to document the Michigan locations. I loved Burger Chef and the Farmington location was a hangout of mine when I was young. The "works bar" was a fantastic concept. You could get a couple of small burgers cheap then dress them up with tons of stuff like lettuce, tomatoes, pickles, mustard, ketchup, etc yourself. I remember when they converted most of them to Hardees which in my opinion was far inferior. That eventually went under too.
Cactus Bob master listing of Michigan Burger Chefs
Burger Chef was an American fast-food restaurant chain. It began operating in 1954 in Indianapolis, Indiana, expanded throughout the United States, and at its peak in 1973 had 1,050 locations, including some in Canada. The chain featured several signature items, such as the Big Shef and Super Shef hamburgers.
In 1982, the General Foods Corporation, owners of the Burger Chef trademark and name, divested itself of the restaurant chain, gradually selling to the owners of Hardee's. The final restaurant to carry the Burger Chef name closed in 1996.
In 1954, Frank and Donald Thomas patented the flame broiler in their parent company General Equipment Corporation and started their restaurant in Indianapolis, Indiana. In 1957, they opened their first Burger Chef.
Burger Chef advertisement (1966).
Burger Chef spread across the United States, following a strategy of opening outlets in smaller towns.
By 1972, its number of locations (1,200) was surpassed only by McDonald's (1,600). They offered a double burger, called the Big Shef, and later the quarter-pound (113 gram) hamburger, Super Shef. Subsequently, they added the Works Bar, where customers added their own toppings to hamburgers.
In 1968, General Foods Corporation purchased the chain and continued its rapid expansion. At the time of the purchase by General Foods, Burger Chef had 600 locations in 39 states.
By 1969, international expansion was underway with General Foods building ten Burger Chef outlets in Australia. The expansion ended in 1975 with a US$1.3 million loss (equivalent to $6.25 million in 2020). It was stated that Australians disliked the limited burger based menu as compared to a Milk Bar. The chain had two mascots: Burger Chef (voiced by Paul Winchell) and Jeff (the chef's juvenile sidekick).
Burger Chef sign in Albuquerque, New Mexico (1979).
In the early 1970s, the chain introduced the Funburger and the Funmeal, with packaging that included stories about Burger Chef and Jeff's adventures and friends (including the magician Burgerini, vampire Count Fangburger, talking ape Burgerilla, and Cackleburger the witch), with riddles, puzzles, and small toys. When McDonald's introduced their Happy Meal in 1979, the chain sued, but ultimately lost.
In 1982, General Foods sold Burger Chef to the Canadian company Imasco, which also owned Hardee's, for US$44 million (equivalent to $118 million in 2020). Imasco converted many locations to Hardee's restaurants and let franchises and locations near existing Hardee's locations convert to other brands. Remaining restaurants that did not convert to Hardee's or new names and branding simply closed.
Hardee's brought back the Big Shef hamburger for a limited time in 2001, 2007, and 2014 at some Midwestern locations.