Published October 25, 2012
| The Daily Meal
Ever had a Wimpy Burger? If you have never feasted your eyes on a Wimpy restaurant, you’re not alone. It’s one of many fast-food chains that have not made it to the U.S., and it's likely to be a fast-food restaurant you’ve never heard of. The Daily Meal has compiled a list of fast-food restaurants that are worth seeking out if you’re headed abroad.
Fast food is no small industry here in the U.S. — Americans spend nearly $100 billion on fast food every year. There are close to 50,000 fast-food chain locations in the country, according to the Palo Alto Medical Foundation, and of those, McDonald’s is the largest fast-food chain.
By now, you are likely familiar with Birthplaces of Fast Food in America, here is a recap: the contemporary fast-food industry was born on Sept. 13, 1921 in Wichita, Kan., when Walter A. Anderson teamed up with Edgar Waldo "Billy" Ingram to open the first White Castle. In the next 15 years, White Castle would open seven more locations, expanding to other mid-Western markets.
Almost two decades after the first White Castle opened, the fast-food movement experienced a surge of momentum when the McDonald brothers, Richard and Maurice, opened their first hamburger restaurant, McDonald’s in San Bernardino, Calif., in 1940.
From then on, the industry proliferated. Colonel Sanders, who had opened his first restaurant in 1930 in North Corbin, Ky., opened the first Kentucky Fried Chicken franchise in Salt Lake City, Utah, in 1952. Burger King’s predecessor, Insta-Burger King, was founded in Jacksonville, Fla., in 1953, while the first location of the current company opened in Miami in 1954. Dave Thomas opened the first Wendy’s in Columbus, Ohio, in 1969.
Many American fast-food institutions, such as McDonald’s, Kentucky Fried Chicken, and Burger King, have gained major traction overseas, but their counterparts abroad don’t always make it to the U.S. While some overseas restaurants emulate major American institutions, others have created their own regional versions of fast food.
From Nigeria, where Mr. Bigg’s has more than 170 locations serving traditional cuisine such as moin moin and ofada rice, to Barbados, where Chefette, famous for its roti, is celebrating its 40th anniversary, diners are likely to find a localized fast-food chain almost anywhere in the world.
After searching all over the world, The Daily Meal found 10 fast-food restaurants you haven't heard of, but should definitely know about.
With locations in Taiwan, Singapore, and Hong Kong, Japanese burger chain MOS Burger first opened in Tokyo in 1972 and was the first food service company to open in all of Japan’s 47 prefectures. Unlike other chains, MOS burger employees don’t prepare the burgers, fries, and other offerings until after an order is placed, making the wait time at MOS Burger a bit longer than other fast-food chains. Worth the extra wait are the teriyaki burger, teriyaki chicken burger, MOS rice burger, and Hokkaido pumpkin croquette. Until 2002, MOS Burger had an outpost in Hawaii, but it hasn’t hit the continental U.S. yet.
If you have been to England, no doubt you have seen the red and white sign with the word "WIMPY" sandwiched between two slices of bread. There is nothing wimpy about the burgers here, which are served with lettuce, tomato, onions, and ketchup in a white bun. The Wimpy chain, which opened in 1954 at Lyon’s Corner House in Coventry Street London, claims to be the first to have served a vegetarian burger, the Spicy Beanburger, but it also serves fish and chips, "toasties," and Tea-Time treats, which include toasted tea cake with butter and carrot cake in more than 23 countries.
If you ever find yourself in Germany, you can order a "California sushi box," salmon fillet, mackerel fillet, or smoked maties at Nordsee, a fast-food seafood chain.
Founded by school teacher Pat McDonagh in Galway, Ireland, in 1978, Supermac’s has more than 100 locations in Ireland and Northern Ireland. The company claims to have pioneered curry chips and the snack box craze in Ireland. Supermac’s menu has burgers, chicken sandwiches, cod and chips, and eight different varieties of french fries, including coleslaw, taco, curry, and cheese fries.
What better way to celebrate your time in tropical paradise than with fast food? Chefette, a chain with 14 locations in Barbados, was named by combining the words "chef" (to cook) and "fete" (to party). The chain is famous for its roti, made with curried vegetables and meat and wrapped in wheat flour wrap. Celebrating its 40th anniversary this year, Chefette’s menu includes pizza, chicken, sandwiches, and salads.
More from The Daily Meal