SPRINGFIELD, Mo. — We don’t think much of it now as we see them all over the place but where and how exactly did the drive-thru restaurant industry begin in the United States?
Well it all started thanks to a man named Sheldon “Red” Chaney in Springfield, Missouri.
Following World War II, “Red” purchased a small Sinclair gas station with motor court cabins in the back of the property along Route 66. A café was added in 1947.
Since “Red” and his wife owned a small herd of beef cattle, they decided to open up a restaurant, concentrating on hamburgers, for hungry travelers along the route.
It was considered the first restaurant with a drive-up window and served hungry travelers from 1947 to 1984.
The name of the restaurant was meant to be “Red’s Giant Hamburger” but the “er” had to be cut off when “Red” realized the sign was too tall to clear overhead power lines, so it became known as “Red’s Giant Hamburg.”
A year after “Red’s” restaurant opened, In-N Out Burger opened a drive-thru that used a state-of-the-art (at the time) two-way speaker box.
Then, in 1951, Jack in the Box opened in San Diego as a drive-thru only restaurant, coinciding with the growing popularity of car culture in America.
“Red” passed away in 1997 and his wife Julia passed in the early 2000s. Though the original spot of their restaurant sits empty today, a new “Red’s Giant Hamburg” opened in 2019 in Springfield, helping “Red’s” legacy live on.
Before drive-thrus, cars were rarely designed or manufactured with cup holders. By the 1980s, the feature was considered a must-have in every car.