Jack in the Box began in 1941 as Topsy’s Drive-In. The restaurant were founded by Robert Peterson, a restaurant veteran. The restaurants were eventually renamed to Oscar’s.
In 1947, Peterson purchased rights to an intercom system from an Alaskan business.
In 1951, the first Jack in the Box location was opened in San Diego. It was the first restaurant with an intercom based drive-through system which allowed for faster service.
The concept was an instant success. By 1966, there were over 180 locations in California and the Southwest US.
In 1968, the company was purchased by Ralston Purina. The chain grew rapidly through franchising in the 1970s.
By 1980, the chain was struggling to compete with McDonalds and the marketing strategy was changed to target more affluent customers.
In 1985, Ralston Purina sold the company to its senior management team.
In 1987, the company went public.
Today, there are over 2200 Jack in the Box restaurants, mostly in the Western US. The company also owns the Qdoba Mexican chain.