It started in 1954 in Indianapolis and became number 2 to McDonald's in a short time. Frank and Donald Thomas created an inside Flame Broiler to make barbecued hamburgers indoors. The idea became quite popular and spread to the East and West Coasts.
They were the first chain to sell hamburgers without condiments so that customers could make their sandwiches the way they wanted them. This is still used in the Roy Rogers chain.
The company was purchased by General Foods in 1968.
They were the first chain to offer a child's meal, which they called the Fun Meal. When McDonald's introduced the Happy Meal, Burger Chef tried to sue but lost in 1979.
In 1982, General Foods sold the chain to the folks that run Hardee's.
For all intents and purposes, Burger Chef went out of business in 1992. However, one outlet in Cookeville, Tennessee, was able to stay Burger Chef until 1996. The name was changed to Pleaser's and it went out of business in 2002.