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What Ever Happened To King’s Food Host?

By on December 14, 2009
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It was a multinational food chain, with locations in 17 states and at least one Canadian province. Its Cheese Frenchee Sandwiches are still widely sought after, decades since the famous crowned logo was last seen on signs. The signs might have disappeared long ago in Bismarck too, but its successor, The Woodhouse, has carried on the King’s legacy more than thirty years since the chain disappeared from the landscape.

So the question exists, what ever happened to King’s Food Host? Bismarck Pride went digging to find out.

King’s Food Host was founded by James King and Larry Price in 1951 in Lincoln, Nebraska. Mr. King left the business in 1960, but Price continued its operation. The first King’s franchise opened in 1961, and the company formerly adopted a franchise program in 1968. In 1969 and 1970 alone, more than 100 locations were opened, including the one here in Bismarck.

By 1971, the over-expanded company had hit hard financial times, with a reported net loss of $997,000 for the year. At the time, there were over 100 corporately-owned restaurants and 36 franchises.

King’s continued to suffer losses, with a net loss of $1,948,987 in 1973, and another loss of $1,985,744 in its fiscal year ending April 1974, which lead the company to file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in October of that year. The company had hoped to reorganize, but was never able to return to profitability and the restaurants slowly faded from existence.

Just prior to filing for bankruptcy protection, its total restaurants had already declined to 84 corporate-owned, of which only 32 were profitable, and 42 franchises. The company’s revenue was listed at approximately $21 million, down from its peak two years earlier of more than $23 million. By the end of that year, company-owned locations again decreased to 79.

Kings Food Host continues to operate at The Woodhouse Restaurant.

King's Food Host continues to operate as The Woodhouse Restaurant.

The Bismarck location, renamed The Woodhouse Restaurant in 1979, appears to be the only survivor of the chain that still operates in the same format. Other than a change in name, the addition of a drive-through, and minor remodeling, it has seen little change since first opening. It has not been confirmed why the Bismarck location has continued well beyond the company’s bankruptcy, however it is assumed that it was one of the aforementioned 42 franchises.

Another former chain still in operation in Bismarck is Scotty’s Drive-in, which is one of only three known survivors of what was once a vast regional chain consisting of at least six states.

22 Comments

  1. Diane Ewing

    May 15, 2010 at 9:36 pm

    I grew up in Lincoln Nebraska and the first Kings Food Host on Cotner Blvd. was considered our high school drive-in where we all headed after school, after Friday night games and Saturday night dates. On Food Network’s Unwrapped, they were talking about fried foods and mentioned that onion rings would come in second to french fries in popularity and it seems like they said the first ones showed up somewhere around 1960. I graduated in 1960 and I know we had been having onion rings all the time I was in high school. Do you have any idea when onion rings hit Kings’ menu?
    Sincerely,
    Diane Ewing

  2. Avatar of Randy Hoffman (admin)

    Randy Hoffman (admin)

    May 16, 2010 at 9:47 am

    Sorry, but I don’t know when onion rings hit the King’s menu. I always assumed they were there from day one, but don’t know the specifics of it.

  3. john jurgens

    June 27, 2010 at 11:09 am

    MY FAMILY MOVED TO KC,MO IN 1962AND FELL IN LOVE WITH THE KINGS !!!
    SAD THAT WENT AWAY BUT FOUND THE FRENCHEE RECIPE SO NOT ALL IS LOST!!

  4. iggyks

    November 5, 2011 at 3:09 pm

    You can still find kind of scary fast food King’s combined with some sub sandwich shop in Beatrice and Lincoln, Neb. – and they have Frenchees.

  5. Avatar of Randy Hoffman (admin)

    Randy Hoffman (admin)

    November 5, 2011 at 5:23 pm

    It was my understanding that those are called King’s Classic and aren’t very similar to the actual King’s Food Hosts (ie no phone-based ordering).

  6. John Belz

    December 6, 2011 at 1:20 pm

    King’s Restaurants started in Lincoln, Nebraska. In Lincoln there was at least five locations. Each high school had there own to hangout at. People could eat in and order by phone or drive up to phone from their car. Larry Price sold the chain and Kings started to go down hill. They went from having the best hamburgers to selling soy-burgers. There are still many former Kings in Lincoln and many restaurants who still have Cheese Frenchies.

  7. Avatar of Randy Hoffman (admin)

    Randy Hoffman (admin)

    December 6, 2011 at 2:25 pm

    John – thank you for the information. I am still confused on whether the remaining former Kings still operate how they originally were – all of my research indicates that they are not much the same (such as no phone-based ordering and very few of the original menu items).

  8. John Belz

    April 5, 2012 at 6:43 pm

    Well, if you’re still confused, why don’t you piss off you fucker?

  9. Avatar of Randy Hoffman (admin)

    Randy Hoffman (admin)

    April 5, 2012 at 7:43 pm

    Wow, John, all I asked for was some clarification and your response is to “piss off” followed by an explicative. Never mind, someone that has an attitude such as yours doesn’t have much credit anyway.

  10. jc

    May 15, 2012 at 12:24 am

    Good riddance, Kings!

    Their Omaha management (circa 1967) was vicious and vindictive. Although they tried to to cater to a college crowd, they did not.

    They once had one of our party arrested for breaking a towel machine in the men’s restroom. When I protested his public arrest in front of patrons, I was arrested for interfering.

    Because they forced their employees to lie in court, I was convicted of a misdemeanor. And over 40 years later, I will never forgive that company and their mendacious stooges.

  11. Brice Burtch

    November 20, 2012 at 2:56 pm

    I grew up in Lincoln, and went to Northeast high School class of 65. I remember Kings on Cotner Blvd as being the place to be on the weekends. Kids would drive their cars around and around through the Kings lot exiting back out on the street where they would then lay rubber for a couple hundred feet until they re-entered the Kings lot and did it all over again. This was when all the muscle cars were coming out and the Beachboys were singing about them.
    I remember Kings having a giant hamburger that had to be 6-8 inches in diameter they called “The Whopper”. This was way before Burger King exsisted. I also remember the “Cheese Frenchy” and they also has a “Tuna Frenchy” too.
    Good memories.

  12. Michael Liebelt

    January 17, 2013 at 8:36 pm

    Sorry Brice,
    It was not called the whopper,it was called the big cheese,2 1/3 pound hamburgers,2 slices of cheese,all the fixins and it had a onion ring placed on top of it.
    Our family has franchises we had 1 store in brookings so dakota,1 in mitchell so dak,1 in ankeny iowa,1 in jefferson city mo and 1 in sedalia mo

  13. Dennis Joyce

    January 2, 2014 at 2:15 pm

    What is the name of the location in Ankeny Iowa where they have the cheese frenchy?

  14. Chris Little

    January 3, 2014 at 3:02 pm

    I used to work at the King’s Food Host at Washington and 104th on the north side of Denver. I worked there for 3and 1/2 years in the mid to late 70′s. It was a good entry-level job, and I learned a lot. The place was owned by an elderly couple, Everet corbin and his wife. Their son, Wayne, was the assistant manager. Rod (the manager) bought the place when the Corbins retired, and Wayne left. I used to be in charge during the afternoon (the slow time of day)while Rod would go home and try to Get some sleep and manage his household. This was in about ’78. I guess at that point the chain was sinking. I hope Rod didn’t loose his shirt. I left Colorado in ’79 or ’80 and went to NC. I moved around a lot, but moved back out west in ’96, to NM. I went up to Denver to visit my brother, and did a drive-by of all my old hang-outs. King’s Food Host was gone! You can never go home. They had good food, and the employees could get meals for 1/2 price. Oh well; things change.

  15. brad lewis

    February 22, 2014 at 11:27 am

    i remember going to the kings food host in waterloo, iowa back in the early 70′s . it was a once a month family event and we always had to get there early so we could get the corner booth.

  16. Jim&Sue B.

    March 8, 2014 at 7:20 pm

    We met in Kings O street, in 1962,got married 6 months later and still married 51 yrs. Later, great burgers, and great lookin girls.Thanks for great memories, etc..

  17. Devin Rogers

    April 11, 2014 at 6:50 pm

    The Cheese Frenchee recipe was sold to the company that has the Don & Millie chain. There are other copycat recipes for it elsewhere.

    jc, you were arrested for obstruction of justice. You deserved it for interfering. I know, I was there that day. Management was going to drop charges but when you interfered it became a police matter.

  18. Doug R

    May 18, 2014 at 12:01 pm

    Worked at the King’s Food Host on Littleton Blvd, Littleton, Colorado in HS in the 70′s; manager was Gil Fast. A great place to work; met my love there in ’76. Married her in ’79–35th anniversary coming up this summer! Cheeseburgers, onion rings and cheese frenchees were my favorites. We visit the Don & Millie’s restaurants in the Omaha area for the burgers, onion rings and cheese frenchees–taste just like the original King’s!

  19. rhys rappaport

    June 4, 2014 at 6:33 am

    I worked as a waitress and then short-order cook at the King’s Food Host in Middleton, Wisconsin in the summer of 1972. I worked the night shift and loved every minute of it. It was a decent roadside cafe and I was sorry to see it go.

  20. Dawn

    June 12, 2014 at 8:04 pm

    We still have a Kings Food Host in Bismarck ND. but it is now called The Wood House. My daughter and I went there tonight to have cheese frenchees. They are just the way I remembered them as a kid.

  21. mskellyw

    July 5, 2014 at 9:53 am

    I was 9 years old and found a dollar and went to King’s Food Host in Des Moines, Iowa all by myself…I knew the menu said a hamburger was a dollar but had no idea about taxes! I looked all over the floors and found two pennies but the tax was three. I was scared but the cashier lady was nice and paid my penny. I miss King’s, and Millie’s Tenderloin and bookstore Reader’s World. “sigh.”

    • JOHN JURGENS

      July 27, 2014 at 1:18 pm

      THERE WAS NOTHING BETTER THAN A MILLIES TENDERLOINS,YUM!!!!!!!!!!!!!!1

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