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.
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.
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