Krystal: The History of Hamburger Restaurant Chains

Krystal: The History of Hamburger Restaurant Chains In late 1932, a small burger joint popped up on the corner of Cherry and Seventh streets in Chattanooga, Tennessee.  Even though the tiny restaurant only measured 10 feet by 25 feet, the two owners had big dreams.  When the first customer counted out thirty-five cents for six burgers and a cup of coffee, Rody Davenport and Glen Sherrill knew they were on to something.

Legend has it that Davenport’s wife, Mary, came up with the name of the restaurant after noticing a crystal ball lawn.  Davenport and Sherrill were sticklers for cleanliness, so “crystal clean” or “clean as a crystal” came to mind. 

Today, Krystal is one of America’s oldest hamburger chains. 

Starting a restaurant during the Great Depression would prove to be a challenge, but Davenport and Sherrill were determined.  They knew that people still had to eat, and if they could provide high quality food at an affordable price in a clean environment, then their business would be a success.

Before opening that first restaurant, Davenport spent a lot of time at the already successful White Castle to learn about restaurant hygiene and the unique assembly line procedures used there.  He studied the menu, the service and the prices. He took what he learned and decided to apply it to his own ideas.

The Famous KrystalThe first restaurant started off with what could be considered a standard menu for the day – bacon, eggs, homemade pies and fresh brewed coffee – but the standout menu item was the Krystal burger.  Before long, word had spread about their square burgers served with steamed onions, and folks began lining up.  Less than ten years later, the Famous Krystal burger was being served up in thirty-three locations across Alabama, Georgia and Tennessee.

In 1943, Davenport passed away and Sherrill took over as president of the company, a position he held until his passing in 1961.

Krystal continued to distinguish itself in the 50s by using inexpensive porcelain plates to serve food, rather than disposable wrappers or boxes.  Milkshakes, fries and chili were added to the menu and, as more and more customers began driving, the chain began adding drive-thrus.

Krystal: The History of Hamburger Restaurant ChainsAlmost 79 years after its humble beginnings, you can still get the original burger that started it all, the Famous Krystal. The square burger is 100% USDA beef, grilled to perfection, tucked between a steamy bun and topped with onions, mustard and a pickle. There is also a Double Krystal, a Cheese Krystal and a Double Cheese Krystal. If one is not enough, you can get these burgers in packs of 12 and 24.

The Famous Krystal has always been the cornerstone of the company, but Krystal has a long history of innovative menu choices.  The Original Scrambler is a breakfast bowl stacked with grits, scrambled eggs, cheese and sausage.  Other items, like the Chili Cheese Pup, the Big Stack Breakfast, the new 4-Alarm Chipotle Wings, and the Big Angus Burger all serve to set Krystal apart from other fast-food selections.

“Krystal is a southern icon, known for its hospitality and value,” says Brad Wahl, Vice President of Marketing for the Krystal Company.  “The Krystal experience is one that virtually every man, woman and child raised in the South has shared. In fact, Krystal is the oldest quick-service restaurant chain in the South and we plan to continue to be a part of Southern history for years to come.”