First store: Wichita, Kan., in 1921
Company home: Columbus, Ohio
Total stores: 421 in 11 states
Closest store to Dallas: St. Louis, Mo., 627 miles
What’s the big deal?: Bite-sized burgers, popularly known today as “sliders”, are White Castle’s calling card. Folks who love and crave them typically grew up in an area populated by the fast food restaurant. The cravings became easier to satisfy when the company launched its frozen food division in 1988, sending its sliders to grocery store freezer sections all over the country. White Castle is a common pop culture reference (as in the movie “Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle”), and the company has latched onto its “cravers” with gear and website shout outs. All of its restaurants are company-owned, no franchisees, and the current CEO and president of the private, family-owned company s the grandson of the founder.
From the horse’s mouth: “We continue to open new White Castle restaurants, about seven to 10 a year. We pay for everything as we go, so we don’t take on any debt. Our primary strategy is that we add new restaurants to the marketplaces we’re already in — this year already a couple in Chicago, Indianapolis, Detroit, primarily in the Midwest and Northeast. It doesn’t mean we won’t explore new terrain, but given our smaller size, there’s a lot of relative growth for us in some of these places. [As for Dallas], well, we never say never — we’re always exploring new ideas and seeing where we might go next — but we have to be intellectually honest and say it won’t be right away.” — Jamie Richardson, White Castle vice-president (and former Dallas resident)
Expert opinion: “Some other burger joints have come into the market with big fanfare from the East Coast (Steak and Shake is a good example), and obviously not had the success they thought they would. A concept like White Castle is, I think, looking at some other folks that have tried and failed, and may be a little reticent to come in. I’ve never heard their name come up in looking around DFW, but it wouldn’t surprise me if they did take a look at it. Burgers are hot right now.” —David Shelton
“I think that you’ll definitely see that one day they’ll make their way to Dallas … I’m not sure how much of an expansion plan White Castle is on nationally; it’s more of an established brand and not as big … Maybe they’re waiting for a franchisee to really tackle Dallas. That’s what happened with Carl’s Jr.” — Mike Geisler