Food blog

The Untold Truth of Krystal: Uncovering the Secrets Behind a Southern Fast-Food Icon

The Untold Truth of Krystal: Exploring the History and Legacy of a Southern Fast-Food Icon

When it comes to eating miniature, square hamburgers in the southeastern United States, Krystal is a true icon. With a rich history and a dedicated fan base, Krystal has carved out its own niche in the fast-food industry. In this article, we delve into the untold truth of Krystal, uncovering fascinating facts and stories that have shaped this beloved restaurant chain.

A White Castle Rip-Off: Krystal’s Humble Beginnings

At first glance, it’s hard to ignore the uncanny resemblance between Krystal and White Castle. In fact, the first Krystal restaurant, which opened in 1932, was inspired by the established success of White Castle. Co-founder Rody Davenport Jr. was impressed by the White Castle model while visiting one of their restaurants in the Midwest. With a focus on cleanliness, affordable food, and well-trained staff, Davenport and co-founder J. Glenn Sherrill brought the concept to the South, launching Krystal’s legacy.

From burgers and coffee to an iconic menu

In its early days, Krystal, like White Castle, focused on a limited menu. Initially offering only sliders and coffee, Krystal aimed to provide a satisfying meal during the Great Depression. The steamed, square-shaped sliders topped with onions quickly gained popularity for their affordability and unique flavor. Over time, Krystal expanded its menu to include items such as French fries, chili and milkshakes, while still keeping its signature slider as the main attraction.

The Krystal name: A symbol of cleanliness

Have you ever wondered why a restaurant is called Krystal? Contrary to popular belief, it has nothing to do with the owners’ daughters. In fact, the name comes from the founders’ commitment to cleanliness. At a time when ground beef had a questionable reputation, Krystal wanted to convey its dedication to cleanliness and hygiene. The name “Krystal” was inspired by a crystal ball seen by Rody Davenport Jr.’s wife, symbolizing a clean and pure image. Changing the “C” to the “K” added a unique touch and the name Krystal was born.

The Legendary Krystal Eating Contest

Eating contests are not a new phenomenon, and Krystal has had its fair share of them since its inception. One of the most notable contests was between Krystal’s first and second customers. The second customer, Roy Ward, challenged the first customer, French Jenkins, to a Krystal eating contest and emerged victorious. This tradition of eating contests continued through the years and was officially recognized in 2004 with the creation of the Krystal Square Off World Hamburger Eating Championship.

The evolution of Krystal restaurants

Over time, Krystal restaurants have undergone several transformations in design and layout. The earliest locations resembled traditional diner counters, with customers seated at stools along a long counter. In the 1970s, however, Krystal adopted a counter-service model, where guests place their orders at a counter and then enjoy their meals at non-counter seating options such as tables and booths. Today, Krystal restaurants are a mix of restaurant-style dining rooms and smaller units with dual drive-through service and walk-up order counters.

A touch of elegance: Serving food on china plates

In an unexpected move for a fast-food chain, Krystal set itself apart by serving its food on real china plates. This unique touch lasted until the 1950s, when the company began using wrappers and boxes like its competitors. However, the concept of cleanliness remained integral to Krystal’s identity, and the use of porcelain plates reflected the founders’ commitment to maintaining a clean and pristine image. The white porcelain and stainless steel components also demonstrated their commitment to cleanliness and hygiene.

An enduring love: Elvis Presley and Krystal

Even the King of Rock and Roll, Elvis Presley, had a soft spot for Krystal. Priscilla Presley, Elvis’ wife, revealed that he loved Krystal Sliders and appreciated their small size. This affection for Krystal was shared by DJ Dewey Phillips, who was instrumental in launching Elvis’ career. The shared love of Krystal burgers, often ordered in large quantities, was a nostalgic indulgence for both men, a reminder of their humble beginnings.

The legacy of Krystal Square Offs

While informal Krystal eating contests have been a part of the restaurant’s history since its early days, the official Krystal Square Off World Hamburger Eating Championship was established in 2004. This annual event attracts competitive eaters from around the world who compete to consume the most Krystal burgers in a given period of time. The championship has become a celebrated tradition that showcases the dedication and skill of these exceptional athletes. It has also helped solidify Krystal’s status as a unique and beloved fast food chain with a passionate following.

Expanding influence: Krystal’s Impact on Southern Culture

Beyond its delicious food and iconic branding, Krystal has had a significant impact on Southern culture. As a beloved regional fast food chain, Krystal holds a special place in the hearts of many Southerners. It is often associated with memories of family road trips, late-night cravings and community gatherings. Krystal’s presence has become woven into the fabric of Southern society, representing not only a tasty meal, but also a sense of nostalgia and tradition.

A Commitment to Quality: Krystal’s Enduring Success

Despite facing numerous challenges and competition throughout its history, Krystal has managed to maintain its position as a staple in the fast food industry. The brand’s commitment to quality ingredients, cleanliness and friendly service has been instrumental in its continued success. With nearly 300 locations in ten states, Krystal continues to serve its loyal fan base, offering a taste of Southern comfort and a connection to its rich heritage.

Bottom line

The Untold Truth of Krystal reveals a fascinating journey that began with inspiration from White Castle and grew into a Southern fast-food phenomenon. From its humble beginnings as a rip-off to its unique menu, commitment to cleanliness and enduring legacy, Krystal has left an indelible mark on the culinary landscape of the Southeast. With its iconic sliders, cherished traditions and unwavering dedication to quality, Krystal remains a cherished and beloved institution, satisfying the cravings of generations and serving as a cultural touchstone for the communities it serves.


Krystal’s founders were inspired by the success and model of White Castle after visiting one of their restaurants in the Midwest.

How has Krystal’s menu evolved over time?

Initially, Krystal’s menu consisted of sliders and coffee. Over the years, it expanded to include items like fries, chili and milkshakes, while still keeping the signature slider as the main attraction.

Why is it called Krystal?

The name Krystal was chosen to symbolize cleanliness and hygiene. It was inspired by a crystal ball that Rody Davenport Jr.’s wife saw that represented a clean and pure image.

What was Krystal’s role in competitive eating?

Krystal has a long history of hosting eating competitions, and in 2004, the official Krystal Square Off World Hamburger Eating Championship was established, attracting competitive eaters from around the world.

How has Krystal influenced Southern culture?

Krystal has become a beloved regional fast food chain that evokes nostalgia and tradition for Southerners. It represents not only a delicious meal, but also memories of family road trips, late-night cravings and community gatherings.

How has Krystal maintained its success over the years?

Krystal’s commitment to quality ingredients, cleanliness, and friendly service has been instrumental in its continued success. It has managed to maintain a loyal following and expand its presence across ten states.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *