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About Jack in the Box:
Jack in the Box (NASDAQ: JACK) is an American fast-food restaurant founded by Robert O. Peterson in 1951 in San Diego, California, where it is still headquartered today. In total, the chain has 2,200 locations; primarily serving the West Coast of the United States. California is the state with the greatest number of outlets (927), followed by Texas (611), Arizona (177), Washington (143), Nevada (77), and the bi-state St. Louis metropolitan area (72, between Missouri and Illinois). Since 2000, the company has also opened outlets in North Carolina and other Southern states. The company also operates the Qdoba Mexican Grill chain.
Robert O. Peterson already owned several successful restaurants when he opened Topsy’s Drive-In at 63rd and El Cajon Blvd in San Diego in 1941. Several more Topsy’s were opened and eventually renamed Oscar’s (after Peterson’s middle name), and by the late 1940s the Oscar’s locations had developed a circus-like décor featuring drawings of a starry-eyed clown.
In 1951, Peterson opened a similar restaurant on the Pacific Coast Highway in Long Beach, with a giant clown’s head atop the building. Called Jack in the Box, this hamburger stand had no carhops at all, but instead offered the innovation of a two-way intercom system, allowing much faster service through the drive-through window—while one customer’s car was at the window, a second and even a third customer’s order could be taken and prepared. Quick service made the new location very popular, and soon all of Oscar’s locations were redesigned with intercoms and rechristened as Jack in the Box restaurants.
Peterson’s holding company was called Foodmaker Company, which by 1966 was known as Foodmaker, Inc. All Jack in the Box locations at this time were company-owned; location sites, food preparation, quality control and the hiring and training of on-site managers and staff in each location was subject to rigorous screening processes and strict performance standards. By 1966 there were over 180 locations, mainly in California and the Southwest.
In 1968, Peterson sold Foodmaker to Ralston Purina Company. In the 1970s Foodmaker led the Jack in the Box chain toward its most prolific growth (television commercials in the early 1970s featured child actor Rodney Allen Rippy), and locations began to be franchised. As the decade progressed, the chain began to increasingly resemble its larger competitors, particularly the industry giant, McDonald’s. Jack in the Box began to struggle during the latter part of the decade, and its expansion into East Coast markets was at first cut back from original estimates, then halted altogether. By the end of the decade, Jack in the Box restaurants were being put up for sale in increasing numbers, forcing Foodmaker to respond quickly to turn the chain around.
As a result, around 1980, Foodmaker dramatically altered Jack in the Box’s marketing strategy by literally blowing up the chain’s symbol, the jack in the box, which dated back to the early San Diego days, in television commercials with the tagline, “The food is better at the Box”. Jack in the Box announced that it would no longer compete for McDonald’s target customer base of families with young children. Instead, Foodmaker would attempt to attract older, more affluent “yuppie” customers with a higher-quality, more upscale menu and a series of whimsical television commercials featuring Dan Gilvezan. Jack in the Box restaurants were remodeled and redecorated with decorator pastel colors and hanging plants.
Television advertising from about 1985 onward featured minimalistic music performed by a small chamber-like ensemble (specifically a distinctive seven-note plucked musical signature). The menu, which was previously focused on hamburgers led by the flagship Jumbo Jack, became much more diverse, including such items as salads and chicken sandwiches (at least two new menu items were introduced per year), at a time when few fast-food operations offered more than standard hamburgers. Annual sales increased through the 1980s. Ralston Purina tried further to mature the restaurant’s image, renaming it “Monterey Jack’s” in 1985, a disastrous move that lasted a short time. The Jack in the Box name was restored in 1986.
Ralston Purina was satisfied with Foodmaker, but decided in 1985 that it was a non-core asset and elected to sell it to management after 18 years. By 1987 sales reached $655 million, the chain boasted 897 restaurants, and Foodmaker became a publicly traded company.