Last week we took a look at McDonald's roots as a barbecue restaurant before it converted into a fast-service hamburger stand. Pit-cooked barbecue ultimately wasn't a good match for the demands of fast-food chains, but that doesn't mean that entrepreneurs didn't try.
In the early 1960s, businessmen Bill Newman and Ben Burch teamed up with Frank O. Howell, Jr., who was running a local barbecue chain in Memphis, to create Little Pigs of America and franchise it nationwide.
At a typical Little Pigs of America establishment, a pork basket sold for 59 cents, a pork plate for 69 cents, and a rib platter for $1.59. By 1965, some 200 restaurants had opened in the United States and Canada, and the company announced a bold goal of exceeding 1,000 locations in just a few years. (McDonald's Hamburgers, by comparison, had just opened store #800.)
Despite its initial growth, Little Pigs of America struggled to become profitable, and in 1967 it filed for bankruptcy, ending the brief run of what was once America's largest barbecue chain.
Most Little Pigs outlets faded away after their parent company folded, but some stayed in business as independent operators. A handful of restaurants that got their start as Little Pigs franchises are still selling barbecue today, including well-known spots in Columbia, South Carolina, and Asheville, North Carolina.
Today's installment comes courtesy of Robert Moss, a food writer and restaurant critic for the Charleston City Paper and author of "Barbecue: the History of an American Institution". Follow him on Twitter at @mossr.
Delve into more barbecue goodness from the Southern Foodways Alliance blog.
Previously - McDonald's got its start as a barbecue restaurant