Jack in the Box

Jack in the Box, Inc.
Type Public (NASDAQJACK)
Industry Restaurants
Headquarters San Diego, California, U.S.
Area served 19 states in the U.S.
Key people Linda A. Lang, CEO & Chairwoman
Robert Oscar Peterson, founder
Jack, Fictional CEO and fictional founder

Fast food

revenue = increase$2.765 billion USD (2006)
Employees 42,500 (2008)[1]
Website jackinthebox.com

Jack in the Box (NASDAQJACK) is an American fast-food restaurant founded by Robert O. Peterson in 1951 in San Diego, California, where it is still headquartered today. In total, the chain has 2,200 locations, primarily serving the West Coast of the United States. California is the state with the greatest number of outlets (927), followed by Texas (611), Arizona (177), Washington (143), Nevada (77), and the bi-state St. Louis metropolitan area (72, between Missouri, Oklahoma and Illinois). Since 2000, the company has also opened outlets in North Carolina and other Southern states.[2] The company also operates the Qdoba Mexican Grill chain.[3][4]



Jack in the Box competes primarily with other major national fast-food chains such as McDonald's, Yum! Brands (Taco Bell, Kentucky Fried Chicken), and Wendy's. Food items include the Jumbo Jack, Potato Wedges, and Ultimate Cheeseburger.

Jack in the Box also offers an American version of ethnic cuisine - such as egg rolls and tacos, along with breakfast burritos. New items come in on a rotation every three to four months, including the Philly Cheesesteak and the deli style pannidos (deli trio, ham & turkey, zesty turkey) which were replaced by Jack's ciabatta burger and included the original ciabatta burger and the bacon n' cheese ciabatta. Jack in the Box also carries seasonal items such as pumpkin pie shakes, Oreo mint shakes, and eggnog shakes during the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays. In some locations, local delicacies are a regular part of the menu. Locations in Hawaii, for example, include the Paniolo Breakfast (Portuguese sausage, eggs, and rice platter) and teriyaki chicken and rice bowl. In the Southern United States, the company offers biscuits and sweet tea. In Imperial County, California, some locations sell date shakes, reflecting the crop's ubiquity in the region's farms. In the spring of 2007 Jack in the Box also introduced its sirloin burger and followed this up with recently the sirloin steak melt. Its more recent foray into the deli market was the less-popular Ultimate Club Sandwich which was initially removed in Arizona due to poor sales and has since been phased out at all locations.

Most Jack in the Box locations are freestanding, while some may be attached to a filling station service center or at a shopping mall and center. Most Jack in the Box locations serve the entire menu, including breakfast, during all operational hours, and many Jack in the Box locations are open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year (in contrast to their competitors, who often have reduced hours on major holidays such as Christmas Day and New Year's Day, or close altogether).


Robert O. Peterson already owned several successful restaurants when he opened Topsy's Drive-In at 6270 El Cajon Boulevard in San Diego in 1941. Several more Topsy's were opened and eventually renamed Oscar's (after Peterson's middle name), and by the late 1940s the Oscar's locations had developed a circus-like décor featuring drawings of a starry-eyed clown.

In 1951, Peterson opened a similar restaurant on the Pacific Coast Highway in Long Beach, with a giant clown's head atop the building. Called Jack in the Box, this hamburger stand had no carhops at all, but instead offered the innovation of a two-way intercom system, allowing much faster service through the drive-through window—while one customer's car was at the window, a second and even a third customer's order could be taken and prepared. Quick service made the new location very popular, and soon all of Oscar's locations were redesigned with intercoms and rechristened as Jack in the Box restaurants.

Peterson's holding company was called Foodmaker Company, which by 1966 was known as Foodmaker, Inc. All Jack in the Box locations at this time were company-owned; location sites, food preparation, quality control and the hiring and training of on-site managers and staff in each location was subject to rigorous screening processes and strict performance standards. By 1966 there were over 180 locations, mainly in California and the Southwest.

In 1968, Peterson sold Foodmaker to Ralston Purina Company. In the 1970s Foodmaker led the Jack in the Box chain toward its most prolific growth (television commercials in the early 1970s featured child actor Rodney Allen Rippy), and locations began to be franchised. As the decade progressed, the chain began to increasingly resemble its larger competitors, particularly the industry giant, McDonald's. Jack in the Box began to struggle during the latter part of the decade, and its expansion into East Coast markets was at first cut back from original estimates, then halted altogether. By the end of the decade, Jack in the Box restaurants were being put up for sale in increasing numbers, forcing Foodmaker to respond quickly to turn the chain around.

Jack in the Box Chicken Sandwich

As a result, around 1980, Foodmaker dramatically altered Jack in the Box's marketing strategy by literally blowing up the chain's symbol, the jack in the box, which dated back to the early San Diego days, in television commercials with the tagline, "The food is better at the Box".[5] Jack in the Box announced that it would no longer compete for McDonald's target customer base of families with young children. Instead, Foodmaker would attempt to attract older, more affluent "yuppie" customers with a higher-quality, more upscale menu and a series of whimsical television commercials featuring Dan Gilvezan. Jack in the Box restaurants were remodeled and redecorated with decorator pastel colors and hanging plants.

Television advertising from about 1985 onward featured minimalistic music performed by a small chamber-like ensemble (specifically a distinctive seven-note plucked musical signature). The menu, which was previously focused on hamburgers led by the flagship Jumbo Jack, became much more diverse, including such items as salads and chicken sandwiches (at least two new menu items were introduced per year), at a time when few fast-food operations offered more than standard hamburgers. Annual sales increased through the 1980s. Ralston Purina tried further to mature the restaurant's image, renaming it "Monterey Jack's" in 1985, a disastrous move that lasted a short time. The Jack in the Box name was restored in 1986.

Ralston Purina was satisfied with Foodmaker, but decided in 1985 that it was a non-core asset and elected to sell it to management after 18 years. By 1987 sales reached $655 million, the chain boasted 897 restaurants, and Foodmaker became a publicly traded company.

E. coli outbreak

Jack in the Box's success came to a halt in the 1990s because of two main factors: the national recession of 1990-91 (the company suffered an 81 percent decline in net earnings in 1991) and more importantly, the E. coli incident of 1993, in which four children died and hundreds of others became sick in the Seattle area, California, Texas, Idaho and Nevada after eating undercooked and contaminated meat from Jack in the Box. It was the largest and deadliest E. coli outbreak in American history up to that time.

The chain lost millions of dollars in sales and revenue as a result of the disaster, and millions were paid out as settlements in wrongful death lawsuits. Moody's Investors Service downgraded Foodmaker's debt to junk status as it had no confidence that sales would return to normal levels. Bankruptcy was imminent. With the very survival of the company at stake, Foodmaker needed another turnaround strategy to distance themselves from the E. coli scare.

They got it from a new ad campaign developed by an advertising agency from Santa Monica, California, called Secret Weapon Marketing, led by Dick Sittig, as detailed below.[6][7] They became a very well known restaurant when they first started.

Advertising campaigns

The restaurant rebounded in popularity in the mid-1990s, after a highly successful marketing campaign that featured the fictitious Jack in the Box CEO "Jack" character (voiced by the campaign's creator, Santa Monica advertising executive Dick Sittig), who has a ping pong ball-like head and is dressed in a business suit.

Jack was reintroduced specifically to signal the new direction the company was taking to refocus and regroup after the E. coli disaster. In the original 1994 spot, Jack ("through the miracle of plastic surgery", he says as he confidently strides into the office building) reclaims his rightful role as CEO, and, apparently as revenge for being blown up in 1980, approaches the closed doors of the Jack in the Box boardroom (a fictionalized version, shown while the aforementioned minimalist theme music from the 1980s Jack in the Box commercials plays), activates a detonation device, and the boardroom explodes in a shower of smoke, wood and paper. The spot ends with a closeup shot of a small white paper bag, presumably filled with Jack in the Box food, dropping forcefully onto a table; the bag is printed with the words "Jack's Back" in bold red print, then another bag drops down with the Jack in the Box logo from that period.

The commercials in the now 17-year-old "Jack's Back" campaign (which has won several advertising industry awards) tend to be lightly humorous and often involve Jack making business decisions about the restaurant chain's food products, or out in the field getting ideas for new menu items. In addition, many commercials have advertised free car antenna balls with every meal, thus increasing brand awareness. Often different types of antenna balls will be available if a holiday or major event is approaching.

Popular Jack antenna ball (Christmas version)
Jack in the Box headquarters in San Diego, California in February 2008
Jack in the Box restaurant in Willits, California

During the height of the now-defunct XFL, one of the continuing ad series involved a fictitious professional American football team owned by Jack. The team, called the Carnivores, played against teams such as the Tofu Eaters and the Vegans.

Another ad circa 2000 involved a man washed up on a remote island with only a Jack in the Box antenna ball as company. Later that year director Robert Zemeckis, claiming the agency had appropriated elements of his Oscar-nominated film Cast Away for the ad, had his lawsuit against the ad agency thrown out.

The Meaty Cheesy Boys, a mock boy band, were created during an ad campaign featuring an out-of-control advertising executive previously fired by Jack. The same ad exec featured in a spot where a medical doctor made exaggerated claims of the benefits of fast food that it would cure baldness, help trim extra pounds, and remove wrinkles. Jack asks the ad exec incredulously, "Where did you find this guy?" The ad exec responds proudly, "Tobacco company."

In April 2006, Jack in the Box launched an ad campaign called Bread is Back,[8] taking a stab at the low carbohydrate diets of recent years.

In 2006, Jack in the Box took use of this perception creating a commercial featuring a typical stoner who is indecisive about ordering. When faced with a decision, the Jack in the Box figurine in his car tells him to "stick to the classics" and order 30 tacos implying that he has the "munchies".[9] This ad later stirred up controversy among a San Diego teen group who claimed that the ad was irresponsible showing a teenager who was under the influence of drugs. To protest, they presented the company with 2000 postcards protesting the ad, despite the fact that it had not aired since the beginning of the previous month. This commercial was redone in 2009 to feature the new logo and the new Campaign.

Another ad touting the chain's milk shakes aired circa 2003 and was shot in the stilted style of a 1970s-era anti-drug spot, urging kids to "say no to fake shakes" and featured "Larry The Crime Donkey," a parody of McGruff the Crime Dog.

In 2007, Jack in the Box began a commercial campaign for their new 100% sirloin beef hamburgers, implying that they were of higher quality than the Angus beef used by Carl's Jr., Hardee's, Wendy's, and Burger King. That May, CKE Restaurants, Inc., the parent company of Carl's Jr. and Hardee's, filed a lawsuit against Jack in the Box, Inc. CKE claimed, among other things, that the commercials tried to give the impression that Carl's Jr./Hardee's Angus beef hamburgers contained cow anuses by having an actor swirl his finger in the air in a circle while saying "Angus" in one commercial and having other people in the second commercial laugh when the word "Angus" was mentioned. They also attacked Jack in the Box's claim that sirloin, a cut found on all cattle, was of higher quality than Angus beef, which is a breed of cattle.[10]

Jack in the Box's official logo from March 20, 1980 until March 15, 2009. (One variation has a miniature clown hat (dating back to 1978) with three dots in the upper left hand corner; the clown head was removed in the mid-1980s. The 'clown head' can be seen on several YouTube videos depicting Jack In The Box commercials from the 1970s and 1980s.) Most Jack in the Box locations opened before late 2008 had this logo, although the company is slowly replacing them with the newer logo, along with general updating of the locations' decor.

During Super Bowl XLIII on February 1, 2009, a commercial depicted Jack in a Full Body Cast after getting hit by a bus. The closing shot encouraged viewers to visit www.hangintherejack.com. At the same website, one can view different videos that speak of Jack's condition. These videos include a cell phone video of Jack's accident. Also, previously run commercials of Jack include a disclaimer that reads "Recorded before Jack's accident." After a month in a coma, Jack woke up when his second-in-command, Phil, thinking Jack wasn't aware yet, revealed he was changing the name of the chain to "Phil in the Box". This woke Jack up, and he began to strangle Phil, shouting "PHIL IN THE BOX?! I DON'T THINK SO! SOMEBODY FIND MY PANTS! I GOT WORK TO DO!".

Shortly after the "awakening", it was revealed that the corporate website would be relaunched, and the company would get a new logo, on March 16, 2009.

In October 2009, Jack in the Box debuted a popular commercial to market their "Teriyaki Bowl" meals. The commercial features employees getting "bowl cut" hair cuts. At the end of the commercial, Jack reveals that his "bowl cut" is a wig, to the dismay of the employees.

In November 2009 the company discontinued their popular Ciabatta sandwiches/burgers.

Food safety

In 1981 horse meat labeled as beef was discovered at a Foodmaker plant that supplied hamburger and taco meat to Jack in the Box. The meat was originally from Profreeze of Australia and other shipments destined for the United States were discovered that included kangaroo meat.[11][12]

As mentioned above, in 1993, Jack in the Box suffered a major corporate crisis involving E. coli O157:H7 bacteria. Four children died of hemolytic uremic syndrome and 600 others were reported sick after eating undercooked patties contaminated with fecal material containing the bacteria at locations in the Seattle area and other parts of the Pacific Northwest. The chain was faced with several lawsuits, each of which was quickly settled (but left the chain nearly bankrupt and losing customers). At the time, Washington state law required that hamburgers be cooked to an internal temperature of at least 155 °F (68 °C), the temperature necessary to kill E. coli bacteria, although the FDA requirement at that time was only 140 °F (60 °C), which was the temperature Jack in the Box cooked. After the incident, Jack in the Box mandated that in all nationwide locations, their hamburgers be cooked to at least 155 °F (68 °C).[13][14][15] Additionally, all meat products produced in the United States are required to comply with HACCP (Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points) regulations. Every company that produces meat products is required to have a HACCP plan that is followed continuously. Following the outbreak, Jack in the Box hired highly respected consultant Dave Theno to lead their food safety turn around. He worked with food safety experts from manufacturing companies and created a comprehensive program to test for bacteria in every food product used at Jack in the Box. These programs, and especially the most stringent E. coli testing program in hamburger in the industry, were widely shared and copied by other companies. Jack in the Box was the recipient of the coveted "Black Pearl" award for innovations in food safety and quality in 2004.[16]

New markets

2nd Colorado location in Arvada
New Jack in the Box in Scottsdale, Arizona showing the new logo

In 2005, Jack in the Box announced plans for nationwide expansion by 2010. As part of the initiative, it is entering new markets as well as returning to markets where it had a presence in past years.

In support of this objective, the chain began airing ads in states several hundred miles from the nearest location. This is similar to a strategy used for years by Sonic Drive-In in its national expansion efforts.

Currently the strategy is targeted at Colorado and Texas. In 2006, the first new Colorado store opened in Golden, marking an end to Jack in the Box's 11-year-long absence from the state.[17]

In Albuquerque, New Mexico, several locations opened in June 2009.[18] Jack in the Box restaurants last made an appearance in the Albuquerque market approximately two decades ago.[19]

In March 2011, Jack in the Box launched the Munchie Mobile in San Diego, a food truck that will dish out burgers and fries.[20]


US States with Jack in the Box locations

Oklahoma locations slated for 2010 openings include Norman, Moore, Oklahoma City, Midwest City, and Broken Arrow.[21]

In September 2010 it was announced that 40 underperforming company-owned Jack in the Box restaurants located mostly in Texas and the Southeast would close.[22]

JBX Grill

JBX Grill was a line of fast casual restaurants introduced in 2004 by Jack in the Box Inc. JBX Grill featured high-quality, cafe-style food, avoiding most of the cheaper fast-food items typically served at Jack in the Box. The architecture and decor maintained an upbeat, positive atmosphere, and the customer service was comparable to that of most dine-in restaurants. Two of the Jack in the Box restaurants in San Diego, California (where Jack in the Box is headquartered) were converted to JBX Grill restaurants that were used to test the new concept. (The locations in Hillcrest and Pacific Beach still retain many of the JBX elements, including an indoor/outdoor fireplace and modern architecture.) There were also restaurants in Bakersfield, California, Boise, Idaho, and Nampa, Idaho. The last stores were converted back in 2006.


  1. ^ "Company Profile for Jack in the Box Inc (JBX)". http://zenobank.com/index.php?symbol=JBX&page=quotesearch. Retrieved 2008-10-03. 
  2. ^ Jack In The Box - Locations
  3. ^ "Scotlandville, SU welcomes Jack in the Box franchise". http://www.southerndigest.com/home/index.cfm?event=displayArticlePrinterFriendly&uStory_id=3649e4c8-9528-4eec-a9e6-7367a57f3713. Retrieved 2008-02-18. [dead link]
  4. ^ "Bottom Feeding". http://www.phoenixnewtimes.com/2004-02-12/dining/bottom-feeding/. Retrieved 2008-02-18. 
  5. ^ YouTube -
  6. ^ http://www.fundinguniverse.com/company-histories/Foodmaker-Inc-Company-History.html
  7. ^ http://www.nndb.com/people/504/000177970/
  8. ^ Jack In The Box
  9. ^ YouTube - Jack In The Box Stoner Commercial
  10. ^ "Jack in the Box Ads Called Misleading". http://abcnews.go.com/US/wireStory?id=3215032. 
  11. ^ The New York Times, August 26, 1981, "Australian Meat Will Be Inspected" Section A; Page 18, Column 4.
  12. ^ The Washington Post, August 14, 1981, "The Federal Report," First Section; A27.
  13. ^ HistoryLink Essay: Food contamination by E. coli bacteria kills three children in Western Washington in January and February 1993
  14. ^ "Thirteen Years Since Jack in the Box : Marler Blog". http://www.marlerblog.com/2006/07/articles/legal-cases/thirteen-years-since-jack-in-the-box/.  080223 marlerblog.com
  15. ^ "Jack in the Box E. coli Outbreak". http://www.about-ecoli.com/ecoli_outbreaks/view/jack-in-the-box-e-coli-outbreak.  080223 about-ecoli.com
  16. ^ "IAFP Black Pearl Award Brochure"". [1].
  17. ^ A second location opened in Parker.Jack in the Boxes to pop up : Local News : The Rocky Mountain News
  18. ^ http://jackinthebox.com/investors/pdfs/fin_news/FinNews_102.pdf
  19. ^ "Jack in the Box popping up, again, in Albuquerque". August 8, 2007. http://www.bizjournals.com/albuquerque/stories/2007/08/06/daily24.html. 
  20. ^ Zagat Buzz Blog: Jack in the Box Launches Food Truck, March 18, 2011
  21. ^ http://www.tulsaworld.com/business/article.aspx?subjectid=53&articleid=20100406_53_E1_JcnteB275779
  22. ^ Jack in the Box plans to close 40 stores[dead link]

External links

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