Long ago, in a very remote castle, an idea came up. Behind the walls of the castle, a phone call was made, a phone number was called, royal officials were asked, and a dream was given. The night can be magical: table linen, guests in their best winter, and a feast suitable for kings but which can be affordable at a very low price. It was February 14, 1991, a day that was history and history: the first Valentine’s Day celebration at White Castle.
White Castle, a 96-year-old burger chain centrally centered in the midwest and mid-Atlantic, is not well-known as a top-notch restaurant. White Castle is a place where, above all, small hamburgers call for a change in the pocket: the first slice with cheese and without both still use it for less than a dollar. That’s why it’s really amazing that every year for just one night, White Castle becomes a beautiful restaurant.
Every year on Valentine’s Day, White Castle venues around the country book reserve, set new linens, and provide their sponsors with a table, much to the annoyance of local news organizations, which are seen on their cameras every year. There is usually a special menu that offers “wishes” additional options, such as “Love At First Bite” and “Turn Up the Heat,” both slide meals designed for two people. Decorated! It’s funny! Incompatible!
“It was a good experience because it was just nonsense,” said Ramon Guzman, who spent two days with his wife and friends on Valentine’s Day 2015. “Almost everyone was dressed up. It’s funny, but I can honestly recommend it to anyone.” Valentine’s Day in White Castle is an official tradition for some, it appears to be over a hundred years old.
White Castle didn’t invent the hamburger, but it actually gave birth to the American fast food business now. Founded in 1921 in Wichita, Kansas, White Castle created a brand new business model – affordable, consistent travel – by creating lines connecting burgers and small wooden ornaments 25 years before McDonald’s sparked the eye of its creator. White Castle is for sale to urban workers, before anyone can see that there is money to be made there. It is an innovative company, as stupid as that can be seen today.
Despite its importance in the nation’s fast food (and cooking) history, White Castle has never received much respect. With its white embroidered textures and small square hamburgers, this product lives on in a popular concept somewhere between cheap food and stone culture. White Castle’s biggest break on the silver screen, after all, was Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle in 2004: a movie about two friends who smoked marijuana and became very popular and pursued the desire to get burgers at White Castle in New Jersey.
“Art began to enter: Why not make white tablecloths? Why not look? ”
But every single person I spoke to from the White Castle corporate office sounds like they’re in some sort of higher status. People who love their careers talk about their work with some respect, incredible happiness: Add to that the great sprinkling of White Castle’s favorite name “craving,” and you have Jamie Richardson, White Castle’s vice president and still a “rookie,” he said. You have only had this product for 18 years.
Not only do customers love White Castle, the White Castle religion loves them too. Within the walls of Castle, employees cannot say good enough things about the product. “Good ideas happen in restaurants because that’s where the truth lies,” Richardson said, and he’s determined. Ideas at White Castle rarely come from companies, from day-to-day people working in White Castles across the country. According to White Castle’s internal statistics, one in four employees has been with the company for more than 10 years, and the overall management acquisition rate is less than 3 percent. White Castle is not franchised – every single White Castle site is owned by a company. That means each restaurant can do things a little differently, or start their own new culture if they are truly motivated.
It’s very simple, but that’s how the White Castle Valentine’s Day tradition began. Two women who were restaurant managers in different cities, Christine Howard of Minneapolis and Gloria Hollingsworth of St. Howard was later added to the company’s 25-year-old team in 1999. No woman still owns the company: Hollingsworth died in 2004, and Howard did not return many requests for comment.
No one knew in 1991 that the idea would be a balloon in a national event celebrated by all White Castle burger participants in the country, so no one kept a very accurate record of what happened in those early years. “It started with a clean slate and then went into art: Why not make white tablecloths? Why not set it aside? Why not make this night different? “Richardson says. “Valentine’s Day is a way to share our love for Castle. There is something you think about being able to be in a place with your loved ones without hypocrisy. ”
Kim Bartley, vice president of marketing at White Castle, was working in the marketing department at the time of the initial application. He and the team helped make a poster for that first year of booking, but that was enough for him to leave. He says: “February in the midwest is cold and sad. “In most places, the moon is very slow. We love our company, but it wasn’t really a Valentine’s Day hangout. These managers saw an opportunity, and we thought this would only win if we got together. ”
For the first few years, the festival remained short. There is no media coverage from the first year, and there is no institutional memory of what happened, either. But by the second year, the media had begun to take part. Under the heading “Ah, Romance!,” The Minneapolis Star Tribune wrote a summary promising a “candle meal” at White Castles numbers 11 and 13 “with beautiful tablecloths, fresh flowers and bright candles.” The joke also states that the staff greeted the guests and served themselves, “Oui, monsieur. Zees ees your table. Do you see the slidaires? However. ”
That year, a White Castle ad began airing on the Star Tribune on February 9 advertising Valentine’s Day celebrations in 11 locations, a staggering one-year growth. The ad promised to work on the side of the table, now the basis of White Castle Valentine’s Event of the day. In 1994, according to St. Louis Post-Dispatch, the event took place overnight, on the 13th and 14th, and was to be held at 17 venues. An ad in the same Post-Dispatch magazine shows a small hamburger with two candles promising red tablecloths and “celebrated like any other!”
“I can clearly say that there are a lot of times when something starts in a place and it doesn’t come from the whole country,” Bartley said. The difference, in the case of Valentine’s Day, was the media attention. “We were getting calls from journalists asking if this was national, so we started wondering if it was worth it.” Television stations began to appear in White Castle, and journalists began to cover the event, some with good taste, some with humor. The White Castle marketing team was smart and felt the beat. “We saw how unique the event would be – to get into something that transcends national borders and touched hearts – so we invited all regions to participate and did it,” Richardson said. In 2003, the issue became a common occurrence.
Twenty-six years later, the only thing White Castle has compared to Valentine’s Day booking process, now taking place at regional offices. “We allow each Castle to be able to make its own decisions,” Richardson said. “Part of the fun is seeing the best ways GMs make art.” There is no “requirement” for places to participate, but Richardson says all regions are participating in 2017. In some, a red carpet will be removed; others will provide live music or fine linen. At a palace in Westerville, Ohio, Richardson says, a mysterious musician appears every year to play his cello for free visitors.
At the White Castle celebration, Guzman and his wife were in Green Brook, New Jersey, “packed to capacity.” The restaurant decorated all the tables with red plastic tablecloths and plastic flowers. The menus were printed instead of on the blackboard, and the local White Castle group was heartbroken behind one wall where enthusiasts could take pictures. Guzman and his friends initially questioned the whole story of Valentine’s Day. “My friends and I used to joke about it,” Guzman said. “But I was very impressed with their efforts. To be honest, we had a wonderful time. ”
“When others are encouraged to join us, that’s when we meet. We don’t hate them in Castle. ”
On Valentine’s Day, each White Castle site receives a “Point of Crave” box with posters and promotional material, and Richardson’s budget will not be disclosed because he knows his competition is over. “I want them to guess,” she says. Since its inception, White Castle has been attacked by actors. In the 1930’s, copies of the text even removed the name of the chain (White Tower, White Clock, Royal Tower, and White Palace, to name a few.) LED for the February 14th ceremony. “If anyone comes with Surf & Turf, they come to our area and grab our trash.”
Richardson is very polite to name them, but may refer to Krystal (a small southern burger joint), who this year released a press release beginning her Valentine’s day “Surf & Turf” Unlike White Castle, theirs is not a fish between two common species; with eight small burgers, twelve fried shrimp, fridge, and two Ice.
But Richardson doesn’t seem to care. “The more others are encouraged to join us, the more we will be,” he said. “We don’t hate them in Castle.” You don’t have to hate, after all, when you know you’re doing a good job. This year, White Castle expects more than 25,000 people to book a meal at their restaurant on Valentine’s Day.
Over the years, White Castle has been ridiculed by many for their romantic relationships. But it really does seem like Castle is trying to keep the love alive. After all, just because a day is cheap, and perhaps a little too much, does not mean that it cannot be fun.