The US chain Burger King couldn’t use their own brand in Australia, as the name had been trademarked by a takeaway chain based in Adelaide. The Hungry Jack’s brand was established instead, and the first store opened in Innaloo, Perth on 18 April 1971.
The Burger King chain had its origins in Florida, USA, where Keith Kramer and Matthew Burns invented a stove called the Insta-Broiler and set up stores called “Insta-Burger King”. They were bought out in 1959 by franchisees James McLamore and David Edgerton, who renamed the company simply “Burger King”, invented the Whopper, and set out to challenge McDonald’s as the leading burger chain across the country.
Burger King was bought by the Pillsbury company in 1967 and went through many changes of ownership thereafter. The name “Hungry Jack’s” was a variation on “Hungry Jack” – a brand Pillsbury had registered for a pancake mix. It was chosen by the Australian franchisee, Jack Cowin, when he found the Burger King name was unavailable in this country.
Cowin, a Canadian by birth, was no stranger to the fast food business. In 1969 he had bought the right to open ten Kentucky Fried Chicken stores in Western Australia, just a year after the first store opened in Sydney. He continued to expand his fast food empire, opening 26 Hungry Jack’s stores over the next ten years, first expanding into New South Wales in 1981 and Victoria in 1986.
In 1996 a dispute arose between Cowin and Burger King USA, when the Australian trademark for Burger King lapsed and the American operation began to establish Burger King stores in Australia in opposition to Hungry Jack’s. Burger King claimed that, despite Cowin having been granted the sole franchise for Australia, he had not fulfilled the terms of the franchise agreement. The matter went to court and was resolved in Cowin’s favour. He is now among Australia’s richest men, with 390 Hungry Jack’s outlets across the country (either owned or sub-franchised) as well as around 50 KFC stores.
Hungry Jack’s has the distinction of being the purveyor of Australia’s worst fast food, the very high-calorie Ultimate Double Whopper (CHOICE, 2011).