Sunday, April 21, 2013

John Galardi, The Last of California's Fast Food Pioneers: R.I.P.

John Galardi Has Passed Away One cliché is that California sets the trend for America, especially with culture, such as music. This premise was especially true with the rise of fast food restaurants in post World War II California. MacDonalds, Jack in the Box, Carls, Jr., In and Out Burger, and Taco Bell were born in San Bernardino, Los Angeles, and San Diego Counties. Many are now based in Orange County. Del Taco and El Pollo Loco came later. These chains populate the ubiquitous strip malls of Southern California. The MacDonald Brothers and Ray Kroc of MacDonalds, Carl and Margaret Karcher of Carls, Jr., Glen Bell of Taco Bell, Harry and Esther Snyder of In and Out, and Robert Oscar Peterson of Jack in the Box were the pioneers. The last of the pioneers left us earlier this week. John Galardi founded Der Wienerschnitzel in 1961 with a hot dog stand in Wilmington on the PCH. It now has 350 outlets in ten states and Guam, mostly in distinctive A-Frame buildings. Ironies: John Galardi’s first major job in California was working for Glen Bell as he was starting his business, and Carl Karcher also started with a hot dog stand. Galardi’s was the greatest challenge. He had to convince Americans to go out to eat hotdogs, a commodity they could purchase in cheap in packages at the supermarket or convenience stores, and then boil or BBQ at home. No culinary expertise is needed with hot dogs. The hot dog buns are also readily available at supermarkets. Tacos, burritos, and even burgers with fries, sodas or shakes, coupled with Kids Meals can be very attractive to parents. But hot dogs? 120 million hot dogs annually. LA Dogs, Chicago Dogs, Kraut Dogs, Pastrami Dogs, Corn Dogs, but no wiener schnitzel. Galardi’s genius was chili. Forget the mustard or relish; he topped his hot dogs with chili from his secret recipe. Thus, chili dogs and chili cheese dogs are big sellers. His genius was also that only his and the Snyder’s businesses remain in a family corporation. The rest have often gone through several owners. The other sold out early, with the exception of Ray Kroc who had bought out the MacDonalds’ brand name and rights to expand. More recently John appeared in Wienerschnitzel ads, celebrating the chain’s 50th anniversary. Many of the fast food pioneers, including Galardi, became philanthropists. He served California well.

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