White Castle's name was no accident. "White" and "Castle" were
selected to help promote the idea that the meat was both clean and safe.
The kitchen was moved from the back to the front of the house,
intentionally exposed to patrons so they could see the raw beef was fresh
and no hobo was being mixed in. So concerned was White Castle with American
perceptions about burger meat being tainted that it used to boast fresh raw
hamburger was delivered twice a day.
White Castle also hired a respectable scientist at the University of Michigan to conduct a test of the hamburger's nutritional value. For13 weeks
the scientist fed a student nothing but White Castle hamburgers and water. The student was pronounced healthy at the end
of the three-month ordeal. In some ways, the experiment never really ended
on college campuses.
To help promote the idea that a visit to White Castle could be a nice family event, the chain started running coupons in
middle-classed newspapers. White Castle was the first fast food restaurant to promote its business via
coupons. It was also the first fast food restaurant to invent (and
subsequently patent and manufacture) the paper food prep hat.
In 1942, White Castle added its famous five holes to its micropatties. It was found that
adding the holes helped cook the meat more evenly. White Castle also patented this. The burger --small, greasy, with onion, encased
in a bun steamed to a custard-like consistency -- became known derisively
as the "slyder". Much in the same way Coca-Cola first rejected
then accepted "Coke", White Castle has embraced (and trademarked)
the term slyder for its burgers. Fries are known as "spikes".
While McDonald's likes to promote itself as having
served billions and billions, White Castle was the first burger chain to break the billion burger barrier. It
did so in 1954, just about the time Ray Kroc began expanding McSqueakies.
The chain has sold over 7 billion burgers to date.
Although primarily a Midwestern chain (operating
about 350 stores)White Castle has restaurants in Japan and Malaysia. The chain has long believed in slow, steady
growth. New locations are opened using profits, not by borrowing. White Castle only opens about 20 new restaurants a year.
White Castle now distributes frozen, microwaveable burgers to grocery stores all
over the USA. Check your frozen food section, next to the giant
pretzels. White Castle formed its own frozen food distribution company after a highly
publicized 1982 airlift of slyders to marines in Beirut. White Castle is actually a privately held company. It's still in the hands of
the founder's family, run by the grandson, E. W. Ingram III.