When it comes to places that are no more, Jack in the Box might seem an odd inclusion for those not living in New York. In other parts of the nation, the fast food chain not only exists, but thrives. Unfortunately, they started disappeared from Long Island at the end of the 1970s and have yet to return despite their success elsewhere.
In 1951, the first Jack in the Box restaurants opened in San Diego, California. Their owner, Robert Peterson, took a trip to Alaska and noticed that a fast food place was using a two-way intercom to take orders. He obtained the rights to use the same concept, which sped up service considerably, and housed the two-way intercom within the head of a big smiling clown that talked to customers. The concept was such a hit that by 1966, there were over 160 locations, mainly in the western U.S.
Ralston-Purina purchased the Jack in the Box chain in 1970 and began opening franchises all over the country in an ambitious expansion attempt. They hired a young boy named Rodney Allen Rippy as their spokeskid, and he appeared in a number of very popular commercials during the decade. Still, it wasn’t enough to help the chain overcome the fast food behemoth McDonald’s and sales began to slip considerably towards the end of the decade. All of the Long Island locations would close by the end of the 70s. In the 80s, Jack in the Box would change their marketing strategy completely, introducing a popular mascot named “Jack” who served as CEO and wore the same familiar clown head. The ad campaign was an enormous success, but the company had learned their lesson about expanding too quickly, and as a result, New Yorkers still don’t have their Jack in the Box restaurants back.
During their heyday, however, Jack in the Box won over many a fan thanks to three very popular items on their menu. The Breakfast Jack offered a fried egg, along with a slice of cheese and ham, served on a hamburger bun. Cheap and delicious, they were also sold at any time of day, something unheard of at the time for a fast food chain. Even more popular were the tacos which, although they would barely be recognizable to anyone of Mexican descent, were delicious and cheap, two for a buck in most places. Yeah, they were greasy and yeah the “meat” inside wasn’t exactly identifiable, but once you developed a taste for these little fried tacos, you just might crave them for years to come. Finally, there was the signature burger, the Jumbo Jack. Not too different from a Big Mac, these were a sizable sandwich, and television ads featured Rodney Allen Rippy doing his best to take a bite.
Jack in the Box still sells all of those signature items at their stores, and continues to enjoy success around the country. Sadly, it’s anyone’s guess if or when Long Islanders will ever again have the chance to stuff their face with greasy tacos at midnight or a Breakfast Jack at daybreak. As it stands, you have to travel to Tennessee, Missouri or North Carolina to get your fix.
Were you a fan of Jack in the Box back in the day? Did you frequent any of the Long Island locations in particular? We hope you’ll share all of your memories of eating at these decidedly different fast-food restaurants in our comments section below.