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The Krystal Company
Type Private
Founded 1932
Headquarters Chattanooga, Tennessee
Key people Rody Davenport, Jr., J. Glenn Sherrill, Founders
Industry Food
Products Fast food, including hamburgers, french fries, dairy desserts, and signature breakfast offerings.
Website www.krystal.com

Krystal is an American fast food restaurant chain known for their small, squared hamburgers with steamed-in onions, and 24/7 business hours, Krystal is often described as the Southern equivalent of the older Midwest American hamburger chain White Castle. Krystal is popular with college students, and has become known for competitive eating contests - one in particular, where a record-holding participant ate over 100 hamburgers in a matter of minutes.

Contents

History

A Krystal restaurant in Calhoun, Georgia.

Founded October 24, 1932, in Chattanooga, Tennessee, in the first years of the Great Depression, entrepreneur Rody Davenport Jr. and partner J. Glenn Sherrill theorized that even in a severe economic upheaval, "People would patronize a restaurant that was kept spotlessly clean, where they could get a good meal with courteous service at the lowest possible price." Krystal is the seventh or eighth-oldest hamburger chain in the United States (the oldest being White Castle)[1] and the oldest in the South.

Davenport visited White Castle restaurants taking notes of successful features before setting forth on his own venture. Davenport and Sherrill set up the first Krystal at the corner of Seventh and Cherry streets in Chattanooga. While the building still stands, the original Krystal restaurant is no longer in operation. The oldest Krystal still in operation is located on Cherokee Boulevard in Chattanooga's Northshore District.

A Krystal restaurant in the French Quarter, New Orleans, Louisiana.

As for the origins of the Krystal name, company legend states that Davenport and his wife were riding down a mountain road when Mrs. Mary McGee Davenport saw a lawn ornament in the shape of a crystal ball. While gazing at the lawn ornament, Mrs. Davenport commented that since Davenport and Sherrill felt cleanliness was a cornerstone of the concept, they should name the restaurant Crystal for "clean as a crystal" - yet with a "K" to add a little twist.[1]

During the 1950s and early 1960s, the chain served much of its food not in take-out containers - but on inexpensive porcelain dishware labelled "Krystal." The waiters and waitresses wore white uniforms, and food was offered through counter service. In the 1950s, Krystal opened its first drive through window - which most locations maintain today.[2]

In the 1950s, cake doughnuts were served as a breakfast and dessert item. From about 1970 until 1986, fried chicken, coleslaw, potato salad, and rolls were offered. These items were usually sold from a small addition to the back of the hamburger restaurants. The chicken was introduced around the same time that singers Minnie Pearl and Mahalia Jackson entered the fried chicken business.

Current business

Map showing the states with locations of Krystal Restaurants (in red) along with states with locations of White Castle (in blue). States with both Krystals and White Castles are colored in green. Note that at the time this map was made, there was one Krystal in Burlington, North Carolina. It has since closed.

Krystal restaurants, both company-owned and franchised, operate in Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Texas. There is also a single Krystal in Bristol, Virginia (which lies on the Tennessee-Virginia border), and two in Arkansas, one in West Memphis (directly across the Mississippi River from Memphis), and one on the other side of the state in Springdale (which is in the Fayetteville, Arkansas metropolitan area). Krystal is often compared to a similar Midwest restaurant chain White Castle, but other than Nashville and several Kentucky markets, the two restaurants seem to have drawn their own Mason-Dixon line when it comes to competition.

Krystal still maintains corporate headquarters in Chattanooga, and has been owned by Port Royal Holdings, Inc. since 1997. In the late-1990s, Krystal emerged from a bankruptcy proceeding and sale of assets that placed majority ownership outside the heirs of the founding families. Krystal's period of structural change and uncertainty in the late-1990s has led to a successfully re-born restaurant chain with high levels of reported customer satisfaction and an evolving menu.

A tray of Krystal burgers and french fries

Krystal's product line centers on a small, square hamburger served on a square steamed bun called a "Krystal". Small hot dogs, named "pups" are also featured menu items. The restaurant recently expanded its menu to include the "Big Angus Burger," a full-size hamburger made of 100% Angus chuck patty meat.

Krystal is known for a diverse breakfast menu, which includes made-to-order "country breakfast," along with meat and egg sandwiches, and other items. One particularly popular breakfast item is the "Scrambler," which includes a layered stack of scrambled eggs, sausage, grits, and cheese served in a styrofoam cup.[3] Other variations of the Scrambler also feature pancakes, sausage gravy, or southwestern-style spices.

In 1998, Krystal introduced the "Krystal Chik," a small, square, fried chicken breast filet served on the signature steamed square bun.[2] Krystal Chiks remain popular, along with other chicken and salad items. Krystal continues to focus on its core menu products, but continues to redesign and upgrade its stores to appeal to a mobile and multi-tasking audience.

Most Krystal restaurants offer free Wi-Fi internet access.

Krystal is one of the growing number of fast food restaurant chains offering free wireless internet access to customers with Wi-Fi compatible devices. Known as "The Krystal HotSpot", the service is nearly universally available at Krystal locations offering inside seating. The chain is also testing a prototype for a drive-in that features individual television monitors for ordering and watching television (audio is accessed via car stereo), and indoor and outdoor seating areas with multiple big-screen television monitors and free digital jukeboxes.[4]

Krystals remain enormously popular in the South, especially in its East Tennessee "backyard". Fans are known to drive great distances to "get a Krystal" or pine for them when they're out of reach.[5] Long time fans can show new patrons how to combine the boxes that Krystals come in to make Krystal houses. Krystal is a perennial favorite with college students, due to most (but not all) Krystal restaurants being open 24/7.

Frozen Krystal hamburgers are also available in supermarkets.

As of July 2006, Krystal has confirmed that they are expanding the chain into other Southern and Mid-Western states such as West Virginia and Missouri, respectively. The company also said they are expanding further into Virginia and Kentucky.[6]

Competitive eating

Joey Chestnut ate a record 103 Krystal hamburgers in 8 minutes at the Krystal Square Off in 2007 and celebrates with Patrick Bertoletti (Left), "Krystal Kitty", and Bob Shoudt (Right).

Krystal restaurants are the host of the Krystal Square Off, a competitive eating contest. The current world record is 103 Krystal burgers consumed in 8 minutes by Joey Chestnut, set on October 28, 2007.[7]

Popular culture

Singer Crystal Gayle was reportedly named after the hamburger chain, although the names were spelled differently. The name, according to sister Loretta Lynn's 1976 Autobiography, Coal Miner's Daughter, was created because of both of the singing sisters' fondness for the Krystal Burger. The lead characters in Jimmy Buffett's "Great Filling Station Hold Up" took refuge at a Krystal before being arrested and sentenced to prison.

One of the restaurants was featured in a deleted scene in Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan (2006). Borat tries his best to be a conscientious employee but as always, manages to offend customers and employees alike.

John Anderson's song "Money in the Bank" contains the line, "Gonna take you to the Krystal and a picture show."

Notes and references

External links

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