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Robert O. Peterson

AKA Robert Oscar Peterson

Born: 1916
Birthplace: San Diego, CA
Died: 19-Apr-1993
Location of death: Point Loma, CA
Cause of death: Cancer - Leukemia

Gender: Male
Religion: Christian
Race or Ethnicity: White
Sexual orientation: Straight
Occupation: Business, Philanthropist
Party Affiliation: Republican

Nationality: United States
Executive summary: Founder of Jack in the Box

Robert O. Peterson founded the Jack in the Box fast-food chain, and is believed to be the entrepreneur who first paired the drive-through window with an intercom system. Peterson already owned several successful restaurants when he opened Topsy's Drive-In at 63rd and El Cajon Blvd in San Diego in 1941. Like most burger joints of its time Topsy's offered carhop service, but it also had a drive-through window so that customers never had to leave their cars. Some sources cite this as the first restaurant with a drive-through window, and it certainly predates by decades the first drive-thru at a Wendy's (1970) or McDonald's (1975), but the claim is far from undisputed -- a tavern in New Jersey offered a drive-up window for horse-riding customers in 1762. Several more Topsy's were opened and eventually renamed Oscar's for the chain's founder, and by the late 1940s the hamburger stands had developed a circus-like décor featuring drawings of a starry-eyed clown.

In 1951, Peterson opened a similar restaurant on the Pacific Coast Highway in Long Beach, with a giant clown's head atop the building. Called Jack in the Box, this hamburger stand had no carhops at all, but instead offered the innovation of a two-way intercom system, allowing much speedier service through the drive-through window -- while one customer's car was at the window, a second and even a third customer's order could be taken and prepared. Quick service made the new location very popular, and soon all of Oscar's locations were redesigned with intercoms and rechristened as Jack in the Box restaurants. Peterson sold the business in 1967, and died in 1993. His wife, Maureen O'Connor, was Mayor of San Diego from 1985-92, and a close friend of Joan B. Kroc, whose husband founded McDonald's.

Wife: Betty
Wife: Maureen O'Connor (San Diego Mayor, b. 1946, m. 1977, no children)

    Jack in the Box Founder & President (1951-94)
    American Craft Council Chairman


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