Burger Chef was once a major fast food innovator and behemoth. According to Reader’s Digest, the store invented the combo meal and the kid’s meal and grew into a chain of 1,200 locations (via Time) by the early 1970s. At one point, it was the second-biggest fast food burger company. In keeping pace with McDonald’s, and its Ronald McDonald mascot, Burger Chef tasked ad agency Carson/Roberts with creating some characters.
According to “Flameout: The Rise and Fall of Burger Chef,” the agency hired illustrator Dick Chodkowski, who cooked up Burger Chef and Jeff. The former was the guy in charge of the menu, credited with creating the restaurant chain’s most popular menu items, like the Super Shef and the Funburger. “He is warm and lovable,” Chodkowski said in the book. “Kind of a fool at times, but always in a way that endears him to people.” Jeff, then, was the perpetually awestruck character with a can-do attitude, the Robin to Burger Chef’s Batman. “Jeff is a ‘gee-whiz’ kind of kid,” Chodkowski said. “He is always saying things like ‘Burnin Burgers’ … ‘Flippin’ Fries’ … ‘Puckerin’ Pickles’ … and ‘Incredibergible.'”
Burger Chef (and Jeff) are largely forgotten today because the restaurant chain went out of business a long time ago. In 1967, according to the Indianapolis Star, General Foods bought the company and after failing to revitalize it, sold the operation in 1982 to Hardee’s, which absorbed and converted what Burger Chef outlets remained.