"Fast-food revolution” was the term popularized when McDonald’s and other quick-service restaurant (QSR) chains expanded rapidly during the 1970s. Tasty food, served hot, quickly with disciplined, good service at affordable prices helped transform eating out to a nearly everyday experience rather than something reserved for special occasions.
The rapid increase in away-from-home eating brought major implications to the grain-based foods industry to the point that this publication at the time dubbed the proliferation of hamburger and other QSR locations as the “bun revolution.”
Fifty years later, the effects of the bun revolution continue to emerge in ways likely unforeseen when a number of companies expanded into baking powerhouses supplying buns to McDonald’s and other restaurant chains.
This continued reverberation was evident earlier this month in the annual ceremony naming new industry members to the American Society of Baking’s Baking Hall of Fame. The bakers named to this distinguished group this year worked in or had ties to the baking sector that emerged in the 1970s to serve QSR restaurants. Notable in the stories of these honorees is a beautiful web of baking industry cooperation that emerged and continues to blossom from the bun revolution.
The bakers honored this year were Tilman “Tim” Brown and brothers Yianny and George Caparos. Mr. Brown for more than a quarter-century led New Horizons Baking Co., which serves more-than 2,000 quick-service restaurants across Ohio, Kentucky, Indiana, Michigan, and Western Pennsylvania as well as national retail and sandwich makers. Yianny Caparos worked for many years as a sales executive at East Balt Commissary, a major McDonald’s supplier. He and George went on to lead other highly successful baking ventures.
Even more striking, intervention by and guidance from “founding fathers” of the bun revolution were pivotal along the road to success taken by Mr. Brown and the Caparos brothers. In 1995, Mr. Brown was thinking about retirement, not a new career. He had joined Continental Baking Co. as a young man in 1966 and had risen through the ranks for the next 30 years when he was approached by John Paterakis. Mr. Paterakis, elected to the Baking Hall of Fame in 2007 and longtime president of Northeast Foods — a major bun supplier to McDonald’s — asked Mr. Brown if he would run and eventually own Ohio-based New Horizons Baking.
Similarly, Yianny Caparos in thanking the ASB for adding him and his brother to the Hall, recognized Frank Kuchuris for indispensable mentorship. Mr. Kuchuris was the longtime head of East Balt Bakeries. His father, Louis Kuchuris, was the bakery supplier to Ray Kroc in his first McDonald’s located in Des Plaines, Ill., and was added to the Baking Hall of Fame in 2009.
East Balt was sold to JP Morgan Chase in 2012 and to Grupo Bimbo in 2017. Building off the bun revolution, the Caparos brothers at Gold Standard Baking Co. pioneered techniques for offering thaw-and-serve croissants to the mass market. Today, they are partnering at Crown Bakeries with still another McDonald’s supplier — Cordia Harrington, who had established Tennessee Bun Co. in 1996.
At Crown Bakeries, Ms. Harrington (inducted into the Baking Hall of Fame in 2018) and the Caparos brothers are pursuing new opportunities to grow with the quick-service restaurant sector, investing more than $30 million to produce single-serve items and sandwich carriers like buns, English muffins and croissants.
Many other grain-based foods companies are part of the web of QSR suppliers.
For example, C.H. Guenther and Son Inc., the oldest flour milling company in the United States, since 2005 has owned baking plants in the United Kingdom that supply McDonald’s restaurants with buns and English muffins. More than a half century after its start, the bun revolution remains a source of dynamism and excitement for grain-based foods.