White Castle may seem like it's on the bottom rung of the fast food ladder, but as arguably one of the most innovative restaurants in modern history, it should be known for more than just its famous White Castle sliders. Although the iconic paper caps you see on fast food workers — especially at retro-style joints like In-N-Out — may seem like a widespread industry standard, they can all be traced back to White Castle. What's more, the burger chain (more specifically its co-founder, Edgar Waldo "Billy" Ingram) is responsible for distributing the first-ever paper food service hats.
When White Castle began, Ingram wanted it to stand as a paragon of cleanliness and class. At the first White Castle restaurants in Wichita, Kansas, workers were required to wear slacks, white shirts, aprons, and hats. As any restaurant owner likely knows, though, laundry can be a massive expense for an entire workforce, so Ingram wanted to find ways to cut costs without sacrificing cleanliness and hygiene. That's why he decided to switch from cloth hats to paper. As a true entrepreneur, however, he wasn't about to sign over more money to a paper product service, so he founded Paperlynen Co. in 1932. And White Castle wasn't its only client; soon enough, other restaurants wanted in on the paper switch.
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White Castle Changed The Restaurant Uniform Game
Hats are an essential part of almost all food service uniforms because they keep stray hair and dandruff from coming in contact with the food — they're not just an accessory you can cut out. White Castle switching to paper ensured that its hats could stay pristine and be affordably manufactured, distributed, and disposed of. Additionally, it's much cheaper and easier to print a logo on a paper hat than embroider it in cloth, so it's no wonder that Paperlynen's product caught on with other restaurants.
As for why other establishments didn't simply start up their own paper hat companies, White Castle had a patent-protected hat-folding machine that produced over 1,000 hats per hour, as reported by Time. These paper caps were so widespread that company inscriptions ranged from Spanish to Arabic and were shipped all around the world to various restaurants and food distributors. Paperlynen Co. was even responsible for merchandise in a presidential campaign — constituents sported "I Like Ike" Paperlynen-manufactured caps to show their support for presidential hopeful Dwight D. Eisenhower. By 1955, Time reports that White Castle was distributing 42 million paper hats per year.
Read the original article on Mashed.