Jack-in-the-Box Drive Through Menu Sign


Made in a San Diego sign shop, this metal menu board formed one side of a speaker box at a Jack in the Box drive thru restaurant. Drivers approached the menu, made their selections, and proceeded to the speaker box to place their orders. This menu is from the early 1960s and features an 18-cent hamburger and 25 cent tacos.

Since 1951 when the first Jack in the Box opened in southern California, the restaurant chain has catered to serving customers in their cars. The restaurants were drive-thru only and, to attract drivers from a distance, the company employed unusual architecture and signage featuring a giant clown head springing from a box, like the toy.

Jack in the Box restaurants suited southern California’s automobile-focused culture. Small buildings without indoor seating kept operating costs low. They also discouraged competitors: the drive-thru-only operations gave the mistaken impression that the place was empty since cars would drive in and out so quickly, never forming long lines, but all while conducting brisk business. Founder Robert O. Peterson credits the idea for his burger place with ideas borrowed from other recently opened California burger chains. He noticed that after McDonald’s got rid of carhops their profits soared, and at In-N-Out Burger, a very limited menu seemed to work well. Peterson incorporated both of these ideas (no carhops, limited menu), and focused on developing the model of customers driving up, placing their orders, and then driving away.

See more items in: Work and Industry: Retail and Marketing, Food, FOOD: Transforming the American Table 1950-2000

Exhibition: Food: Transforming the American Table

Exhibition Location: National Museum of American History

Credit Line: Gift of Brian A. Luscomb

Data Source: National Museum of American History

Id Number: 2012.0012.02Catalog Number: 2012.0012.01Accession Number: 2012.0012

Object Name: sign

Physical Description: plexiglass (overall material)white (overall color)yellow (overall color)black (overall color)

Guid: http://n2t.net/ark:/65665/ng49ca746ad-a6e7-704b-e053-15f76fa0b4fa

Record Id: nmah_1417795

Our collection database is a work in progress. We may update this record based on further research and review. Learn more about our approach to sharing our collection online.

If you would like to know how you can use content on this page, see the Smithsonian's Terms of Use. If you need to request an image for publication or other use, please visit Rights and Reproductions.