Skip to content

7 Secrets America's Oldest Fast-Food Chain Doesn't Want You to Know

A century is enough time to amass some secrets.

White Castle wears its "oldest American fast-food chain" badge loudly. The brand, which was founded by Billy Ingram in 1921, turned 100 last year, and it was indeed the first American fast-food joint to celebrate a centennial anniversary. They were not shy about leaning into their age, running so many promotions that it was almost impossible to miss. Between Party Punch and Birthday Cake on a Stick, the message was clear: White Castle was 100, and they wanted you to know.

But not every aspect of the brand is broadcast so proudly. As you might imagine, a century is enough time to amass quite a few stories, and maybe a few secrets.

For more fast-food news, check out 8 Worst Fast-Food Burgers to Stay Away From Right Now.

Not everything is cooked by hand

white castle employees preparing food
Joni Hanebutt / Shutterstock

Such an old-school fast-food chain may conjure up images of traditional cooking methods, like people in aprons and hairnets sifting fries in oil. But in actuality, despite White Castle's tenure as the oldest fast-food brand in America, they have started using a rather futuristic frying technique: as of a couple of years ago, robots are doing the work.

Despite smaller portions, their offerings aren't actually healthier

white castle
White Castle / Facebook

Something that is misleading about White Castle's food is that, because of its smaller size, it appears to be lower in calories or more nutritious than comparable options. However, when our nutrition experts analyzed the menu, they did not find the Castle's creations to be any more nutritious, and in fact, their items are often billed as ones to stay away from.

One pound of ground beef makes 18 burger patties

white castle sliders
White Castle / Facebook

There's a reason the chain doesn't advertise this incredible frugality: if one pound of beef goes such a long way, even at 72-cents a slider, the company is likely turning a large profit.

While "sack" sizes sound enticing, they're bad for you

French fries
White Castle

The "sack" size is something that is unique to White Castle, and actually makes up for their smaller slider style: a sack order is large—dare we say, supersized? Time and time again, sack-sized sides from White Castle have made our "unhealthiest" lists, from the sack of Hash Round Nibblers to the iconic sack of fries. Yes, the name may sound innocent enough, but don't be tricked into thinking that an entire sack is by any means a normal serving size.

They once ran this truly wild study

White castle logo

We love someone who leans into what they believe, but White Castle's management went to an extreme with this one. In 1930, they commissioned the University of Minnesota to run a study where a group of students ate nothing but White Castle burgers and water for thirteen weeks. Thirteen weeks! The point was to prove the nutritional value of the burger, and somehow, the students were indeed found to be in good health at the end of the study.

The Impossible Slider didn't get rave reviews

white castle impossible slider and fries
White Castle / Facebook

When White Castle got on the plant-based trend, they undoubtedly thought they were doing something good for both customers and the world. However, our reviewer found the Impossible Slider to be definitively underwhelming, calling it firm, not chewy enough, and citing underwhelming flavor.

At one point, the owner refused to hire women or Black people

original white castle location
White Castle / Facebook

Definitely not a high point in White Castle's history: Billy Ingram, one of the founders of the chain, originally refused to hire women or black people. He eventually changed his ways, but the damage was already done. Some say this was part of the reason McDonald's was able to leapfrog White Castle in terms of success, even though the popular chain is far from 100 years old.

Kaley Roberts
Kaley Roberts is a food writer. Read more about Kaley