What You Didn’t Know About The Jack In The Box Founder

Do you like fast food? Do you like to eat a good burger and crispy fries every once in a while?

If you’re in the United States, chances are you’ve heard of the famous fast-food chain, Jack in the Box.

But what do you know about the person who started it all? In this article, we’ll look at the man who started Jack in the Box and tell you some surprising things about him that you probably didn’t know.

What You Didn't Know About The Jack In The Box Founder

In 1951, Robert O. Peterson opened the first Jack in the Box.

What started out as a small drive-thru burger stand in San Diego, California, grew quickly into a national chain with more than 2,000 locations.

Today, Jack in the Box is known for its famous mascot, a cheeky clown called Jack, and its tasty menu items like the Jumbo Jack, curly fries, and milkshakes.

Also check: Jack in the Box Menu Prices

But who was Robert O. Peterson, and how did he become one of the most famous fast-food business owners ever? Let’s find out.

Pioneered the intercom drive-through

Even though drive-throughs had been around for a while before Robert Peterson put one in his first Jack in the Box restaurant, it was the way he combined a two-way speaker with the drive-through plan that made him a pioneer (The Daily Meal).

By mixing the intercom system with the idea of a drive-through, customers could order their food before pulling up to the window to pick it up.

Pioneered the intercom drive-through

This cut down on wait times and helped boost orders because more people could order from their cars while they waited in line to get their food (The Daily Meal).

Not only was this two-way speaker unusual—being able to talk through the intercom and hear a reply back seemed like advanced technology—but Peterson hid the speaker inside a bright plastic clown (The Daily Meal).

With smartphones and apps, the intercom drive-thru may seem simple or irrelevant, but this great idea has been a big and important part of the past of fast-food chains (Los Angeles Times).

Peterson sold Jack in the Box in the ’60s

The Oscar’s stores owned by Peterson were turned into Jack in the Boxes, according to the Los Angeles Times.

By 1967, there were about 300 Jack in the Box restaurants in California and the Southwest, according to The Daily Meal.

Peterson chose to stop selling hamburgers and sold the company to Ralston-Purina so he could focus on other interests and business opportunities.

Even though he didn’t do many interviews, he spoke to the Los Angeles Times in 1982.

Peterson sold Jack in the Box in the '60s

He summed up his hopes, goals, and outlook on life by saying, “I never want to be bored, and I don’t think I ever will be.

There’s too much to know in the world and not enough time to learn it all.”

“We’re now one of the top fast-food burger chains in the country, with over 2,200 quick-service restaurants in the U.S. and Guam,” says the Jack in the Box website.

We know how important ease is because about 90% of our 500 million annual guests choose drive-thru or take-out.

So, even though the company’s founder has left the business for a long time, his original idea still goes on.

He had many businesses, including the hotel business

People knew Peterson as a tough competitor and a smart business owner. After he sold his burger chain, he started buying hotels and fixing them up.

Even the Mendocino Hotel in Mendocino, California, which has views of the Pacific Ocean (Los Angeles Times) was redone by him.

Jack Lenor Larsen, a well-known fabric designer, said of him, “He loved making deals. I think that helped him keep going when he was so sick.”

He had many businesses, including the hotel business

The Daily Mail says that he was also involved in banking, including the Southern California First National Bank Corp., which later became part of the Union Bank group.

Peterson was a man with many hobbies and skills who didn’t need anyone’s approval, especially for his ideas.

Robert Ballantyne, an attorney and good friend, said this about him: “When he had a thought, he didn’t spend a lot of time talking about it. He just did it without thinking about it” (Los Angeles Times).

On President Nixon’s enemies list

Peterson was a well-known conservative who was a registered Republican.

It may seem strange, odd, or unlikely that he would end up on an enemy list made by the hard-core Republican administration of President Richard Nixon (via Thrillist).

Even though Peterson was a Republican, he helped raise money for several Democratic candidates, including Edward M. Kennedy’s presidential campaign (Los Angeles Times).

He also gave money to other Democratic Party candidates, such as George S. McGovern, Alan Cranston, and Frank Church.

On President Nixon's enemies list

Peterson told The Times in an interview in 1982, “The Establishment hates me because they don’t like it when the boat is rocked.”

Peterson was known for wanting change all the time, doing things his way, and not caring what other people thought, according to the Los Angeles Times.

Some people would say that he didn’t always do things in the nicest or most courteous way, either.

He was a philanthropist

Peterson was interested in art and gave money to many different groups. In fact, he started a group to raise money for the arts.

This group connects private and public donors to help theatres, libraries, and even individual artists (Los Angeles Times).

But he was not a person who liked being in the spotlight or getting too much attention from the public.

Still, he was given the City of Paris Medal of Honor for all he had done for the arts.

He also gave a lot of money to UC San Diego, also known as the University of California, San Diego.

He was a philanthropist

Peterson Hall at UC San Diego is named after him for all the things he did for the school, like giving impressionist art and money to the Scripps Institution of Oceanography and the School of Medicine.

Peterson was a big part of making the UC San Diego Foundation happen, according to UC San Diego.

The UC San Diego Foundation supports the community through scientific, educational, and public service projects.

Peterson died in 1994 at the age of 78. He had been facing leukemia for more than 10 years.


Robert O. Peterson was a very interesting person who did very well in the fast food business.

Peterson was a true entrepreneur who knew how to start a great business, from his humble beginnings as a Naval officer to his role as the founder of Jack in the Box.

During his time as CEO of Jack in the Box, he got into some trouble, but he will always be known as a marketing genius, a generous person, and a true renaissance man.

So, the next time you go to Jack in the Box for a wonderful burger and fries, think about the man who started it all.

FAQs – What You Didn’t Know About The Jack In The Box Founder 

Who was Robert O. Peterson?

The fast food chain Jack in the Box was started by Robert O. Peterson.

When was Jack in the Box founded?

In 1951, Jack in the Box began.

What inspired Peterson to start Jack in the Box?

Peterson was in the Navy and was stationed in San Diego. There, he saw a lot of drive-in restaurants, which gave him an idea.

How did Peterson come up with the idea for the Jack in the Box mascot?

Peterson got the idea for the Jack in the Box mascot from the circus. He made it to draw attention to the restaurant.

Did Peterson have any children?

Peterson did have two kids. His son’s name was Robert, and his daughter’s name was Linda.

What is the current status of Jack in the Box?

Jack in the Box is still a popular fast food business with more than 2,000 locations in the United States.

What are some of the most popular items on the Jack in the Box menu?

For popular Jack in the Box items, try the Jumbo Jack burger, tacos, curly fries, and milkshakes.

Did Peterson face any controversies during his time as CEO of Jack in the Box?

Yes, in 1993, raw hamburgers at Jack in the Box restaurants caused an E. coli outbreak that made over 600 people sick and killed four children.

How is Peterson remembered today?

People remember Peterson as a leader in the fast food business and a generous person who helped others.

What is the Robert O. Peterson Foundation?

The Robert O. Peterson Foundation is a non-profit group that helps with study and education. Peterson started it, and it is still going strong because of him.

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