A decade ago Bill Clinton began his second term in office, Hong Kong left behind British rule, F.W. Woolworth’s closed its doors, and QSR launched its inaugural issue. These 10 issues and stories found below span the history of the magazine and have been chosen for their superior reporting, industry influence, or sheer star power. What the next 10 years hold for the quick-service industry and those who follow it closely will surely be as exciting as the last.
Issue #1 September 1997
“Dave Thomas: Between Scenes”
Ten years and 106 issues ago, Dave Thomas was featured on the cover of QSR’s inaugural issue and participated in the magazine’s first QSR Interview. In a frank Q&A feature the founder of Wendy’s International told readers his thoughts on life (“It’s fragile”); franchisees (“They play a big role”); and profit (“It’s not a dirty word”). At that point Thomas’s company was made up of 5,072 units. Today that number has grown to more than 6,000 and shows no signs of stopping—as evident in its No. 3 finish in last month’s QSR 50 ranking.
Following the 2002 death of its iconic front man, Wendy’s struggled to retain the core principles Thomas first established for the brand. A revived emphasis on quality hamburgers and the sales of Tim Hortons and Baja Fresh are indicators that the brand might be back on track.
Issue #9 January 1999
“Who Delivers in Drive-Thru”
The first QSR magazine drive-thru study coincided with the debut of cup holders in luxury cars. Since then a lot about drive-thrus, the magazine’s coverage of them, and luxury cars has changed—all for the better. The first study, reported in the January/February 1999 issue, crowned Wendy’s the overall winner. Back then the chains were evaluated on cut-and-dry areas: speed, order accuracy, menuboard appearance, and speaker clarity. Today’s study, like the industry it examines, has to be able to handle more.
In the most recent study we took consumer feedback on what was most important in a drive-thru experience and added that to the mix. The new emphasis on freshness and technology like multi-lane ordering combined to change the way the game was played and inevitably who the winner was.
With all these upgrades, like winning times dropping from Long John Silver’s 159.1 seconds in 1999 to Checkers’ 125.5 seconds in 2006, that first study shows what a difference 10 years can make.