One hundred years ago, Billy Ingram and Walter Anderson started a business selling small square hamburgers for 5 cents each. Little did they know at the time that they were launching not only the country’s first fast-food hamburger chain, but also an entire industry.
March 10 marks the 100th birthday of Ingram and Anderson’s business, White Castle, as well as the fast-food industry in America. In honor of the milestone, White Castle will be celebrating all year long with special events, fun promotions and new menu items.
“What started as a few little hamburger stands has turned into a successful family-owned fast-food hamburger chain and retail brand that has withstood the test of time,” says Lisa Ingram, president and CEO of White Castle and the great-granddaughter of Billy Ingram. “We’re so proud of this achievement and grateful to everyone who helped us get here, especially our team members and our craving fans around the country.”
Billy Ingram opened White Castle in Wichita, Kansas, in 1921, selling the iconic little burgers the family-owned business has become famous for. So easy to eat, they were dubbed “Sliders” and sold by the sack.
Billy Ingram moved White Castle to Columbus in 1934 after buying out Anderson’s share of the business. In the subsequent years, White Castle experienced significant growth, becoming a beloved fast-food brand with millions of loyal followers. All the while, White Castle was opening more restaurants in cities across the Midwest and even on the East Coast, earning a reputation as a fun, innovative company with delicious and affordable food.
Here are some of the company’s highlights:
- In 1927, Billy Ingram invented restaurant carryout and unveiled the new tagline, “Buy ‘em by the sack.”
- In 1947, White Castle modified its famous Slider, adding five holes to speed cooking and add flavor.
- In 1961, White Castle became the first fast-food restaurant to sell 1 billion hamburgers.
- In 1962, White Castle began serving cheese Sliders, the first new item to grace its menu since it opened in 1921.
- In 1987, White Castle launched its retail division, making its famous fare available in all 50 states.
- In 2014, Time magazine named White Castle’s Slider the most influential burger of all time.
Today, White Castle owns more than 360 restaurants in 12 markets and plans to open a new one in Orlando this spring. It will be the world’s largest White Castle and the only one in Florida.
“Running White Castle has been an amazing experience for the extended Ingram family, and we can’t wait to see what the next 100 years have in store,” Lisa Ingram says. “But for now, we’re excited to savor this extraordinary time in our company’s history.”
In honor of its 100th birthday, White Castle has numerous festivities planned for the coming year. They include:
$100,000 in college scholarships – In recognition of the company’s 100th birthday, the Ingram-White Castle Foundation will award $100,000 in scholarships to team members and their dependents.
$100,000 sweepstakes – White Castle will conduct the Time Machine Sweepstakes. Each week of the sweepstakes will focus on a different decade and different milestones in White Castle’s history. Customers can win prizes of all types, including daily instant win items, booths named in their honor, their names in lights on a Castle’s exterior reader board, a personalized voicemail greeting from CEO Lisa Ingram, and the grand prize of $100,000
New uniform designs – The renowned New York City design house TELFAR has designed a new set of team member uniforms specifically to commemorate White Castle’s 100th birthday. The set, which team members will begin wearing March 10, includes a T-shirt, polo shirt, apron, visor and durag, all featuring White Castle’s logo and a reference to “100 years and counting.” Telfar Clemens, the founder of TELFAR, was recently named one of Time magazine’s “Time100 Next,” which recognizes 100 individuals who are shaping the future.
Augmented reality soft drink cups – In collaboration with Coca-Cola, a partner since 1921, White Castle has introduced a set of three collectible augmented reality soft drink cups. Designed by Columbus artist Bryan Moss, the cups come alive with sound and motion when viewed through a smartphone. Each cup features a different time period in White Castle’s history, including notable milestones for the company.
A virtual birthday party – With COVID-19 still limiting the ability for large groups to gather, White Castle is hosting a virtual birthday party on May 15 – National Slider Day – for employees and customers.
Retail expansion – White Castle will break ground this spring for the expansion of its frozen-food manufacturing plant in Vandalia, Ohio. The expanded facility, which will be twice the size of the existing 75,000-square-foot building, will be renamed in honor of Bill Ingram, the third-generation family leader who created the retail division.
Cake and punch – No party is complete without special food and drink, so White Castle will offer Fanta Craver Party Punch and Birthday Cake on a Stick as limited-time menu options beginning March 1 and April 18, respectively.
White Castle partnerships – Beginning in May, White Castle will announce several partnerships with iconic lifestyle brands, deepening the brand’s place in pop culture.
More details about these and other planned celebrations will be shared as available on White Castle’s website and social media. See below for a more thorough list of historical milestones in White Castle’s 100-year history.