Before Ray Kroc incorported McDonald's, Dick Spady had a vision to bring fast-food to Seattle. It was the early 1950's and America was on the move - in their cars that is - and looking for a place to easily park and enjoy the new American classic meal: Burgers, fries, and shakes.
It was a food revolution waiting to be tapped-in to by some local entrepreneurs.
In the summer of 1953, a then 29-year old Dick Spady, along with his two partners and co-founders, Warren Ghormley and "Tom" Thomas, defined their business goal as, "simply to serve fresh, high quality food at low prices with instant service." It was a model that continues to set the standard for fast-food even today. Yet, in 1953 not everyone thought it was a great idea. Bank executives told Dick he would never make a profit selling 19-cent burgers. But Dick saw the coming food revolution and what would soon become the American drive-in classics: 100% fresh beef burgers, hand-cut fries, and hand-whipped shakes.
On the morning of January 28th, 1954, the first Dick's Drive-In opened for business on N.E. 45th Street in Seattle's Wallingford neighborhood, not far from the University of Washington. The new restaurant was a smash hit. And, despite having to close a few days later because of a big snowstorm, it was the beginning of a beautiful relationship as Dick's customers came back for more.
Dick's Drive-In was part of an era of American innovation and youthful optimism. Bannister shattered the four-minute mile, Salk perfected the polio vaccine, Hemingway won the Nobel Prize for Literature, rock-n-roll was born, and a young Elvis sang his first great hits. Dick's Drive-In quickly became THE place in Seattle to meet your friends, show off mom and dad's new car, or just trade pocket change for a quick bite to eat.
The model worked so well, that a second drive-in was built on Capitol Hill in 1955, followed by Holman Road in 1960, Lake City in 1963, and Queen Anne in 1974. Unlike most of Dick's competitors, the drive-in's early success didn't convince the partners to turn the business into another national franchise. "My partners and I were family men, not traveling types," says Spady, "We were in this for the long haul, that's for sure, but not as a franchise. We wanted to keep our growth within the Seattle area."
Through the decades, mini-revolutions have occurred. In the late 1950's instead of waiting in separate lines for fries and burgers, you could place an entire order ALL at the same window. Then in 1971 two new burgers were added to the menu: The Dick's Special with lettuce, mayonnaise and chopped pickles, and the famous and award-winning Dick's Deluxe, similar to the Special but with twice the beef and melted cheese. In the early 1970's Dick's also dropped orange soda and added diet Coke. But that's about it.
Then, in 1991 after 35 years, the Spady family bought out the other two co-founders and a second generation of Spady's joined the family's restaurant business.
The Spadys knew that Dick's brand appeal was that the drive-in never changed, and that people knew exactly what they were going to get -- quality food, low prices, and instant service.
Then, after 37 years, it was time to make history again, and Dick's asked their customers where to build the next new restaurant. Over 115,000 people voted in an online poll, "north" won and Edmonds was eventually selected as the new location for the sixth drive-in. The online poll and new drive-in announcement was named one of Seattle's "Top 10 Stories"of 2010.
When the Edmonds drive-in opened in October of 2011, it broke all company sales records and over 800 people joined in the opening ceremonies!
In addition to quality food, low prices, and instant service, Dick's believes in investing in their employees and their community. We offer the highest wages in the industry and provide 100% employer-paid health insurance coverage even to part-time employees. Dick's has given over $1.2 million in employee education scholarships and over $500,000 to local charities that serve the homeless through the customer-funded "Change for Charity" program.
Unlike its franchised competitors, Dick's rarely advertises and instead relies on social media to stay in touch with customers. Dick's online community includes over 204,000 Facebook fans and thousands of Twitter followers.
As the Seattle-area's hometown favorite burger joint, that customer loyalty is expressed with numerous awards such as KING 5 "Best of Western Washington," Readers Choice awards from Seattle Magazine, Seattle Weekly, and Seattle Met Magazine. In March 2012, Esquire Magazine named Dick's Drive-In "America's Most Life-Changing Burger" due to the enthusiastic online voting and passionate support from loyal customers.
"Our most valuable recommendations come from multiple generations of satisfied customers in search of great burgers, homemade fries, hand-whipped shakes, and old-fashioned hot fudge sundaes," says Jim Spady, company Vice President and son of Dick. "We're honored that people keep coming back to make memories and to enjoy great food."