David Edgerton, one of the two founders of Burger King, died April 3 in Miami from surgery complications after a fall, The New York Times reported. He was 90.
Edgerton was a restaurant entrepreneur when he came across Insta Burger King in the 1950s. He was readying to purchase a Dairy Queen in Jacksonville, Florida, when he reversed course and sold the business to buy the 15-cent hamburger business in Miami. He took it over March 1954 and soon convinced James McLamore, who owned Brickell Bridge Restaurant, to come on board at a time when fast-food restaurants were typically reserved to the carhop model.
The duo struggled early, mainly due to equipment issues with the restaurant’s inherited Insta broiler. Edgerton and a mechanic developed a continuous-chain broiler that changed their fortunes. The burgers could now be cooked at high heat along a conveyor belt. However, The Whopper, which can be traced to 1957, set the company on its explosive course.
By 1967 the restaurant had more than 400 units in about 20 states, as well as a few international locations. Pillsbury Company acquired the company, and Edgerton and McLamore shared $20 million in proceeds from the sale, or about $152 million in today’s currency, after paying $5 million to a financial banker.
Edgerton, who went to work with the Bodega steakhouse chain and was involved with Fuddruckers, later said the company “sold one year too soon,” as The New York Times points out, since the industry was about to take off. Burger King had more than 12,100 restaurants worldwide when it was purchased by investment group 3G Capital in 2010. There were 7,226 Burger Kings in the U.S. as of December 31.
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