Jack in the Box expanding into Florida. Here are 6 things to know about the fast-food chain (2024)

After over 40 years away, the iconic 24-hour fast-food place Jack in the Box is coming back to Florida in a big way.

The popular restaurant chain poked its big round white head back into the Sunshine State last year, announcing plans to return. On Monday, the California-based company announced five more franchises coming to Tallahassee and 10 in Orlando.

“Expanding into Florida, one of the nation's largest and fastest-growing states, aligns perfectly with our strategic plan for the Southeast,” Tim Linderman, chief development officer, said in a release. “We're thrilled to bring our iconic brand to Tallahassee, our next new market, and further develop our presence in Orlando.”

The chain famous for its vast and ever-changing menu, controversial commercials and ping-pong-ball-headed mascot has been primarily a West Coast phenomenon but it has plans to go bigger. Here's what you need to know before you go.

The Jack in the Box founder pioneered the drive-thru

Jack in the Box expanding into Florida. Here are 6 things to know about the fast-food chain (1)

If you've ever pulled through a drive-thru to grab a bite, you should thank Jack in the Box and its founder, Robert O. Peterson.

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In the 1940s, Peterson owned two small chains of drive-in restaurants in San Diego, one called Topsy's and the other Oscar's. At that time, "drive-in" meant you parked and someone called a carhop would come to your car, take your order, and bring your food to you. But according to Mashed, in 1951 Peterson decided to try something new.

A few years previously he had seen a two-way intercom system being used at an Alaskan restaurant called Chatterbox, the first known restaurant to let people in their cars place orders straight to the kitchen. He bought the rights to use it and converted one of his Topsy's locations into a new place, Jack in the Box, that used the Chatterbox system, the first fast-food restaurant to do so, according toHistory.com.

Jack in the Box expanding into Florida. Here are 6 things to know about the fast-food chain (2)

It did pretty well. Peterson quickly converted all his other restaurants into Jack in the Box locations (Jacks in the Box? Jack in the Boxes?). In-N-Out burger joints had started using drive-thrus a few years earlier but Jack in the Box was the first major food chain to really focus on drive-thru service.

Jack in the Box was also the first fast food service to offer breakfast sandwiches and salads-to-go.

Whatever they're doing, it seems to be working. Despite some serious setbacks (see below), the company made over $4 billion dollars in 2022 according to QSR Magazine, putting them right behind Dairy Queen and Arby's and just above Papa Johns and Little Caeser's. In 2021, they bought another popular chain, Del Taco.

There are currently about 2,200 Jack in the Box locations across 22 states, with 400 more planned for the next three years, the company said.

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Jack in the Box has a wide-ranging menu

Jack in the Box was a burger place (18 cents each in 1951!) but from the beginning, the best-selling item from the restaurant chain based an hour away from Tijuana was tacos. In 2017, the Wall Street Journal reported that Americans were eating 554 million Jack in the Box tacos every year.

Over the years Jack in the Box has offered several Americanized versions of foods from around the world such as egg rolls, poppers, breakfast burritos and Asian fried chicken. The chain also frequently experiments with new menu items such as Philly cheesesteaks, pitas, shrimp, gyros, pizza bites, breakfast bowls, the Cinnabon Iced Cinnacoffee and a wide variety of different flavors of milkshakes. The Jack in the Box Wiki lists over 340 menu items Jack in the Box has offered at one time or another.

Currently, the lineup includes hamburgers and cheeseburgers, all kinds of fries (regular, curly and "spicy triple cheese and bacon sauced and loaded fries"), onion rings, all kinds of fried chicken (strips and poppers), egg rolls, hard-shell tacos, stuffed jalapenos, various salads, breakfast burritos, sausage croissants, milkshakes and mini churros. and more. Breakfast is famously served all day and at night you can Build Your Own Munchie Meal.

Major holidays get limited-time milkshakes such as the Basic Witch Shake, the Egg Nog shake and the Pumpkin Spice shake. There are also Angry Monster Tacos, pumpkin croissant bites and other seasonal offerings.

Some regional Jack in the Box locations also offer items appealing to their local customers. Hawaiian locations get spam platters and a Paniolo Breakfast. Locations near Imperial County, California, known for its date crops, get Date Ice Cream shakes. Here in the South we get biscuits and sweet tea.

What else are we missing?In-N-Out and 6 food chains missing from Florida. What should head here next?

Jack in the Box has a secret menu

There are several things you can get if you know what to order. According to cozymeal.com, Jack in the Box secret menu items currently include:

  • Mint Oreo Cookie Shake (Oreo shake made with mint ice cream instead of vanilla)
  • Loaded Grilled Breakfast Sandwich (a grilled breakfast sandwich with extra stuff)
  • Ciabatta Bacon Cheeseburger (a bacon cheeseburger on a ciabatta bun, previously a regular menu item)
  • Sourdough Bread (order sourdough to replace any bun, or just by itself)
  • Bacon-Bacon Cheeseburger (adds bacon bits to the bacon cheeseburger)
  • Maple Bacon Cheesecake (New York-style cheesecake with bacon bits and maple syrup)
  • Western Taco (order regular tacos, onion rings and barbecue sauce and assemble)
  • Jalapeño Popper Nachos (order the poppers and a side of cheese sauce to dump on top)
  • Spicy Chicken Biscuit(order a spicy chicken sandwich with a biscuit instead of a bun, or a breakfast sandwich and ask for spicy chicken instead)

Note that items are subject to availability and may vary from location to location.

Jack in the Box has an... unusual mascot

Is there a rule that fast food mascots should be playful and slightly unsettling?

The first Jack in the Box used a theme similar to the original Topsy's look, which was circus-themed and had a giant white clown head on the roof. When the new place opened, "Jack" became the face of it.

Jack was dropped from advertising in the 1980s when the franchise decided to go after the adult market with an upscale menu and a new name ("Monterey’s Jack"). The commercial featured employees blowing up the clown head.

But after the rebranding failed to take off — and the company was trying to recover from its part in an E. coli outbreak, see below — Jack returned in another explosive commercial, this time as a white clown head atop a business suit blowing up the company boardroom. Since the highly successful reboot, he has been the focus of the company's edgy, slightly sinister, award-winning advertising campaigns.

Jack in the Box commercials have mocked other fast food chains, promoted fake bands such as the Spicy Crispy Girls and the Meaty Cheesy Boys, presented highlights from a fake football team called the Carnivores which defeated opposing teams such as the Vegans, launched a presidential campaign, and even partnered with Ryan Reynolds in 2023 to promote his company Mint Mobile and their new mint milkshake. In a 2009 Super Bowl ad, Jack was hit by a bus and the company launched a successful campaign for hangintherejack.com where people could download coupons to "show your support for Jack."

But the company has been criticized for its anti-vegan commercials, ads with not-so-hidden adult undertones including an innuendo-filled commercial promoting their new bowls that came out during the "Me Too" movement, and a 1997 ad where Jack violently assaults someone who has insulted the franchise's food.

Jack in the Box caused an E. coli outbreak that left four children dead

In 1993, 73 different Jack in the Box locations were linked to an E. coli outbreak that sickened over 700 people in four states, leading to 171 hospitalizations and the deaths of four children.

"Further investigation revealed that Foodmaker, Inc., parent company of Jack in the Box, had been warned by local health departments and its own employees that its hamburgers were being undercooked, but had decided that cooking them to the required 155 degrees made them too tough," said food safety expert Bill Marler, who represented many of the people affected. Settlements reached over $50 million, "the largest payment related to foodborne illness at the time," Marler said, and ultimately the company lost approximately $160 million both in court and from lost sales.

A documentary on the outbreak, "Poisoned: The Dirty Truth About Your Food," was released on Netflix.

Jack in the Box used to be in Florida

At one point in the late 1970s Jack in the Box had more than 1,000 restaurants all over the country.

But Burgerbeast.comreports that in 1979, Jack in the Box's then-parent company Ralston-Purina closed or sold all of their restaurants in the southeast to focus on the west and southwest. All the Florida locations — Tallahassee, Sanford, Tampa, St. Petersburg, Bradenton and Orlando — were shut down by 1980.

Currently, the chain has over 2,200 locations in Arizona, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Lousiana, Missouri, Nevada, New Mexico, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Washington.

According to the company's growth map, Jack in the Box has plans to offer more franchise opportunities in North and Central Florida.

Jack in the Box expanding into Florida. Here are 6 things to know about the fast-food chain (2024)


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