• Food

Here's What Popular Fast Food Chains Looked Like When They Debuted

All the popular fast food kids have to keep up with the times. McDonald’s serves cappuccino and salads. Waffle House’s famed jukeboxes are now digital. And KFC wasn't always an acronym. Just as fast food restaurants have tweaked their ingredients, menus, ancillary entertainment, and even their names, they've revamped the buildings where they dish out their particular brand of meat, potatoes, cheese, and carbs. 

Familiar elements survive like golden arches, red roofs, turrets, and maybe even a beloved font on the restaurant's name. But colors are bolder and brighter, logos are more modern, signage is digital, and more places have added a drive-through.

Exploring what fast food restaurants looked like when they opened - many of them in the 1950s, but some going back even before that, like White Castle in the 1920s - is an exercise in architectural, cultural, and culinary nostalgia. It's OK if you're inspired to go out and buy a burger, fries, and shake - with a salad on the side.