Americans love their burgers. Better yet, Americans love to argue that their burger is the best burger.
The regional burger debate—Shake Shack versus Five Guys, In-N-Out vs. Whataburger, the list goes on—is likely one that will continue as long as America’s favorite fast food and fast-casual chains keep flipping patties.
But of all the different local favorites, it’s hard to argue any franchise has had greater national reverence than White Castle, despite the fact that the chain is still privately owned and has fewer than 500 locations.
The Midwestern cult favorite did more than simply invent the slider (originally priced at 5 cents) in 1921, an innovation nearly a century ahead of the resurgence of the mini-burger.
Before beginning distribution of their signature burgers to supermarkets nationwide, White Castle was credited, by some, as the nation’s first fast food restaurant. Founder Walter Anderson is responsible for both the hamburger bun and the standardization of fast food production, and in 2014, the Original Slider was cemented as a cultural icon when TIME magazine named it the most influential burger of all time.
Now, as the chain approaches its centennial in 2021, White Castle is again looking to innovate from within the burger field by making it easier than ever to get a bag full of sliders.
The pitch is simple: What if Harold and Kumar never had to leave their apartment?
Expanding on Grubhub services affiliated with more than 75 White Castle locations in New York City, Chicago, St. Louis, Detroit, and more, the burger chain will begin to offer delivery at 45 additional locations starting this month.
While the franchise is concentrated in the Midwest, there are White Castles in Tennessee, Kentucky, Las Vegas, and more, and delivery services will operate in areas where White Castle and Grubhub overlap.
The new initiative will kick off with a chance for fans to win a catered meal from the White Castle Crave Mobile during the NFL championship on February 4, kicking off the burger chain’s partnership with one of the nation’s leading third party food deliverers.
“We’re honored to partner with the iconic White Castle brand to power delivery from Castles across the country,” says Stan Chia, Grubhub COO, in a statement. “Our orders show that sliders are clearly on the rise, and we’re thrilled to deliver more of what our nearly 10 million diners crave.”
Of course, neither White Castle nor Grubhub are alone in the fast-food-at-your-doorstep market. Last year, fast food titans Wendy’s, Taco Bell, and McDonald’s all made efforts to bring the drive-thru window to their customers’ smart phones.
McDonald’s partnered with UberEats to offer a similar service that continues to expand across the country.
Never one to take the conventional route, Taco Bell linked up with Lyft to beta-test “Taco Mode” in Orange County, California, a service that allows late night Lyft passengers craving Crunch Wrap Supremes to reroute to the nearest Taco Bell. That service will expand nationally in 2018. Taco Bell also currently works with DoorDash to offer delivery from more than 1,000 restaurants across 50 markets.
While the chain appears to be near the front of the pack in terms of adapting to delivery services, White Castle faces a more challenging undertaking than its larger competitors given its footprint of 450 stores.
But don’t count the Castle out.
The chain’s cultural reputation and presence in supermarkets will likely comfort less familiar or hesitant customers, and those who like White Castle really like White Castle.
In 2015, the chain expanded to a new state for the first time in more than 50 years—into the Casino Royale Hotel & Casino on the Las Vegas Strip—and over the store’s first 12 hours, White Castle VP Jamie Richardson said his team served more than 4,000 sliders per hour.
On paper, the marriage of White Castle sliders and a delivery service sounds like a match made in late-night heaven. It will be interesting to watch Grubhub’s partnership develop with a midsized burger chain, but one thing is certain: where there are White Castles, there are hordes of hungry customers looking for sliders by the dozen.
And now, they might not ever have to leave their couches.