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Burger Chef on Mad Men: 'They're Going to Open Their 1,000th Store'

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Hillary Dixler Canavan is Eater's restaurant editor and the author of the publication's debut book, Eater: 100 Essential Restaurant Recipes From the Authority on Where to Eat and Why It Matters (Abrams, September 2023). Her work focuses on dining trends and the people changing the industry — and scouting the next hot restaurant you need to try on Eater's annual Best New Restaurant list.

There might not have been any specific restaurant scenes on last night's episode of Mad Men, but the folks at SC&P did land a big opportunity to pitch Burger Chef. "They're going to open their 1,000th store," says Pete Campbell, "and that's across 45 states." It's an impressive number, and a would be a $3 million dollar account for SC&P. It looks like this account — and the creative struggle between Don and Peggy — will continue for at least a few more episodes. So what was Burger Chef?

Next read:'s America's 21 essential hamburgers.

Burger Chef was a fast food restaurant that opened a test location in Indiana back in 1957 and their first location in 1958. They used a patented machine to make "flame broiled" burgers, and in fact the machine came well before the restaurant, having been patented in 1954. The burgers were a quick hit.

According to the book Lost Indianapolis, Burger Chef had eight location by the end of 1958, 73 restaurants by 1960, and by 1968 there were "800 restaurants in 39 states." They had over 1,000 stores by 1973. Only McDonald's had more.

A vintage employee name tag. [Photo: EBay]

Burger Chef innovations included "The Works Bar" where customers could dress their own burgers and a "funmeal platter" for kids that was introduced in 1973 and came with a toy. (McDonald's introduced the Happy Meal in 1979.) In 1982, Burger Chef sold to the parent company of Hardee's and stores were converted. But Burger Chef's many specials (meaning SC&P might have a new campaign every month) did have something of a revival when in 2007 Hardees reintroduced a Burger Chef special from the '70s: the Big Shef. One of Big Chef's signature items, the Burger Shef was a double cheeseburger with special sauce.

Burger Chef and Jeff. [Photo: Facebook]

It's unclear whether SC&P will win the account at this point. But by the time SC&P is in the picture, Burger Chef already had long-established mascots: Burger Chef and Jeff. Below is a collection of Burger Chef ads, including a Burger Chef and Jeff ad from 1974 and an ad from 1970 with the tag "We'll always treat you right." Maybe that one was Don's idea?

Video: Burger Chef Commercials (Complete Collection)

Video: Burger Chef & Jeff Commercial (1974)

Video: Burger Chef Commercial 1970

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