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Burger King Founder: Who He Was and How He Built a Fast Food Empire

Unveiling the Inspiring Journey of Burger King’s Founder, James McLamore

Popular fast-food chain Burger King has been operating since the 1950s. James McLamore and David Edgerton, the two businessmen who founded Burger King, had a goal of building a competing fast-food enterprise to McDonald’s. Together, McLamore and Edgerton built one of the most prosperous fast-food businesses in history.

closeup of Burger king sign in the street

McLamore and Edgerton were both accomplished businessmen in their own right.

In Pennsylvania, James McLamore was born in 1926. He studied at Cornell University and graduated with a degree in hotel management.

Following graduating, McLamore spent a few years working in the hotel sector before deciding to launch his own company. In 1954, he joined forces with David Edgerton to launch Burger King.

In Massachusetts, David Edgerton was born in 1927. He studied at the University of Miami and graduated with a business administration degree.

After earning his degree, Edgerton spent some time working in the food business before partnering with McLamore to found Burger King.

McLamore and Edgerton were both driven to establish a fast-food franchise that would stand out from the competition, and they were successful in doing so.

Early Life

David Russell Edgerton Jr. was born to David Russell Edgerton Sr. and Ruth on May 26, 1927, in Jacksonville, Florida.


His mother was a housewife, while his father worked for the railroad. Edgerton attended neighborhood schools in Jacksonville while growing up in a humble environment.

Edgerton enlisted in the American military after finishing high school.

He fought in the Navy during World War II, was based in the Pacific, and took part in a number of engagements, including the invasion of Okinawa.

Edgerton studied business administration at the University of Florida following the war.

Edgerton contributed to the creation of the first electric range while working for General Electric in the early 1950s.

But he soon developed a passion for the restaurant business and started looking into new business ventures.

Edgerton and James McLamore, a business partner, opened the first Burger King restaurant in Miami, Florida, in 1953.

The eatery’s original name was Insta-Burger King, and it was built around an original cooking method that Edgerton had created.

Burgers could be cooked more quickly and consistently thanks to the Flame Broiler method, which was a significant advancement in the fast food sector.

Founding Burger King

Since 1953, Burger King has been a well-known brand of fast food restaurants. It was started by Keith J. Kramer and Matthew Burns, the uncle of his wife.

Burger King Restaurant in the retail park of Bognor Regis.

In Jacksonville, Florida, the two of them launched the first Burger King establishment.

It was originally known as Insta-Burger King and was based on a piece of grilling equipment called the Insta-Broiler, which was excellent at cooking hamburgers.

The McDonald’s chain, whose popularity was exploding across the nation, served as the inspiration for Insta-Burger King.

After observing McDonald’s popularity, Kramer and Burns made the decision to develop their own version of it. They bought the Insta-Broiler appliance and started experimenting with various burger recipes.

Due to the success of the initial Insta-Burger King location, Kramer and Burns decided to grow their company.

Around Florida, they launched a number of additional eateries, and the brand quickly gained prominence.

Kramer and Burns quickly came to the realization that they had the necessary management skills for a sizable franchise, therefore they made the decision to sell their company to David Edgerton and James McLamore.

The Burger King business had a lot of promise, and McLamore and Edgerton quickly started to grow it.

They changed the franchise’s name to Burger King and created a new burger recipe that was more reminiscent of McDonald’s.

They also unveiled a brand-new commercial campaign that highlighted the flavor of their flame-broiled hamburgers.

With more than 17,000 stores throughout more than 100 countries, Burger King is currently one of the biggest fast food franchises in the world.

Since its humble origins as Insta-Burger King, the brand has gone a long way and is still a top option for fans of fast food all around the world.

Expansion of Burger King

Burger King continued to experience fast growth after selling the business to Pillsbury in 1967.

burger king restaurant logo

In the late 1970s and early 1980s, the new management made repeated attempts to restructure and organize the chain of restaurants.

Former McDonald’s executive Donald N. Smith took charge of the organization, expanding the menu and tightening supervision over franchisees.

Smith was hired in 1977 to redesign the company’s franchise system. He launched the “Have It Your Way” slogan and a new marketing initiative that was an immediate success.

Additionally, the business added new salads and chicken sandwich products to its menu, expanding its consumer base.

With more than 5,000 stores across more than 50 countries by the beginning of the 1980s, Burger King was the second-largest burger chain in the world.

Throughout the 1990s and the beginning of the 2000s, the business opened new facilities throughout Asia, Europe, and Latin America.

Burger King was purchased by the private equity corporation TPG Capital in 2002, which aided in financing the business’s further growth.

The following ten years saw the opening of hundreds of new Burger King restaurants, many of them in developing nations like China and India.

Burger King is one of the biggest fast food restaurants in the world today with more than 18,000 stores spread across more than 100 nations.

To stay competitive in the very competitive fast-food sector, the company keeps coming up with new ideas and expanding its menu.

Departure from Burger King

In the years following Pillsbury’s 1967 purchase of Burger King, the organization saw a number of management and leadership changes.

Donald N. Smith, who had previously worked for McDonald’s and other fast-food chains, succeeded James McLamore as CEO in 1970.

Smith made a number of adjustments, including lowering expenses and boosting productivity, that enabled Burger King to increase its profitability.

Smith abruptly left his role as Burger King’s CEO, nevertheless, in 1980. It’s unclear why he left, however other accounts claim that he was forced out because of issues with Pillsbury’s administration.

Some people think he departed because he didn’t like the course the business was going in.

Following Smith’s departure, Burger King saw a number of more ownership and leadership changes. A British multinational named Grand Metropolitan bought the business in 1989.

Grand Metropolitan and Guinness amalgamated to establish Diageo in 1997, and in 2002, Diageo sold Burger King to a private equity company.

Burger King continues to be among the biggest and most famous fast food companies in the world despite changes in ownership and management.

The business, which has more than 17,000 stores across more than 100 countries, keeps innovating and broadening its menu to cater to a larger spectrum of consumers.

Later Ventures

James McLamore and David Edgerton pursued other business opportunities after selling Burger King.

McLamore rose to fame as a philanthropist and wealthy investor. He donated millions of dollars to numerous charity projects while serving on the board of directors for a number of organizations, including the Miami Dolphins sports team.

Additionally, he established the James W. McLamore Whopper Scholarship to support Burger King staff members and their families in their pursuit of higher education.

Edgerton, on the other hand, carried on with his employment in the fast food sector.

He established Diversified Foods, a restaurant management business with a few Burger King locations among its several brands. He was also the CEO of the fast food restaurant brand Church’s Chicken.

McLamore and Edgerton joined together once more to launch the fast food business “Blimpie” in 1982. Blimpie was a sandwich store that placed an emphasis on fresh, high-quality ingredients and a distinctive sub bun that was freshly made everyday.

The chain swiftly expanded, eventually having more than 2,000 sites across the globe.

Blimpie struggled to compete with rival sandwich chains like Subway and Quiznos despite its initial popularity. The business was sold by McLamore and Edgerton to Kahala Corp in 2002.

This franchising business also owns well-known restaurants including Cold Stone Creamery and Great Steak & Potato Co.

Frequently Asked Questions

Who founded Burger King?

Burger King was founded by two entrepreneurs, James McLamore and David Edgerton, in 1954. They opened the first Burger King restaurant in Miami, Florida.

What is James McLamore known for?

James McLamore is known for co-founding Burger King and creating the Whopper sandwich. He was the first CEO of Burger King and remained in that position for five years after selling the company to the Pillsbury Company in 1967.

What is David Edgerton known for?

David Edgerton is known for co-founding Burger King with James McLamore. He helped to create the flame-broiled cooking method used by Burger King and was instrumental in the early success of the company.

Did James McLamore and David Edgerton work together before founding Burger King?

No, James McLamore and David Edgerton did not work together before founding Burger King. They met while studying at Cornell University’s School of Hotel Administration and later became business partners.

What happened to James McLamore and David Edgerton after they sold Burger King?

After selling Burger King to the Pillsbury Company, James McLamore remained CEO for five years before retiring. David Edgerton continued to work for Burger King as an executive until 1970. Both men went on to serve on the boards of other companies.


Successful American businessman and Burger King co-founder David Edgerton. He had a big impact on the fast food sector and was crucial to Burger King’s expansion and prosperity.

Burger King is one of the largest fast-food businesses in the world thanks to Edgerton’s enthusiasm for the restaurant industry and dedication to quality and customer service.

Edgerton has consistently shown a dedication to innovation and achievement throughout his career.

He was never content with the state of things and was always seeking for new ways to raise the bar for Burger King’s food and service.

His perseverance and passion made Burger King a pioneer in the fast-food sector, and his legacy still serves as an example to today’s business leaders and entrepreneurs.

Edgerton faced obstacles along the way to his success as a businessman. Throughout his career, he encountered several challenges, including economic downturns and competition from rival fast-food franchises.

He stayed committed to his objectives, though, and overcome these difficulties with diligence, fortitude, and a comprehensive knowledge of the fast-food business.

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Written by Brian Nagele

Brian has over 20 years experience in the restaurant and hospitality industry. As a former restaurant owner, he knows about running a food business and loves to eat and enjoy cocktails on a regular basis. He constantly travels to new cities tasting and reviewing the most popular spots.