Hot-dog, quick-service restaurant chain Wienerschnitzel was founded in 1961 as “Der Wienerschnitzel” in Wilmington, Calif. by former Taco Bell employee John Galardi. Galardi was one of Taco Bell’s first employees, working for founder Glen Bell before the chain was even named Taco Bell. The first location of a Wienerschnitzel restaurant was next door to a Taco Bell on the Pacific Coast Highway and, at the suggestion of Bell himself, Galardi decided to sell food that wouldn’t compete with the taco next door and sold hot dogs.
Wienerschnitzel’s name doesn’t mean hot dog in German (it’s a Viennese breaded veal cutlet which the chain has briefly on its menu in 2017) but is used colloquially in English to describe a hot dog so the name was born from that. Most franchisees dropped the “der” in the 1970s, but some still use the original name. The A-frame-style restaurant architecture, still seen on franchise locations, became one of the defining features for the brand along with chains like IHOP.
Wienerschnitzel calls itself “The World’s Largest Hot Dog Chain”.
The quick-service chain is owned by the Galardi Group, a company founded by John Galardi, that owns about 10% of Wienerschnitzel units and manages the franchisees as well as owns Tastee Freez and The Hamburger Stand. Its current CEO is John Galardi’s ex-wife and former silent partner, Cindy Galardi Culpepper, who stepped into the role when John Galardi died in 2013.
Key Data: Wienerschnitzel
Headquarters: Irvine, Calif.
Segment: Quick Service
Restaurant Segment: LSR Sandwich/Deli
Number of US Locations: 327
2020 Sales: $265.7 million
Source: Datassential Firefly 500
CEO: Cindy Galardi Culpepper.
Parent/Group: Galardi Group