One of Arkansas’s newest dairy bars is actually one of Arkansas’s most beloved, nearly lost restaurant chains.
Of course, I am talking about the Minute Man. Wesley T. Hall’s original concept restaurant came out of a 24-hour coffee shop he owned with two other partners at 407 Broadway in Little Rock, Arkansas, way back in 1948. Eight years into the operation, he bought out his partners and converted the place into a hamburger joint. Soon, he had franchised out the Minute Man name and product across the state and even further: to seven states and 57 locations.
Hall’s first restaurant was one of three in the nation to receive brand new microwave “Radar Ranges” from Raytheon to try out, and Minute Man pioneered microwave usage in fast food. This allowed for the creation of the Radar Deep Dish Pie – a disc of doughy crust atop the bubbling magma of the filling – in cherry, peach, apple or strawberry.
He had a talent for figuring out what people wanted and got them to buy those things from his store – not just with good food, but with good marketing. Back in 1975, he teamed up with the Coca-Cola company to do something revolutionary: offer a real glass bearing the Minute Man logo with a drink purchase.
1975 was also the year the Magic Meal was patented. It may be hard for some of you younger folks to believe, but it used to be that if you wanted to order something for your kid, it came off the same menu the adults used. Minute Man sold Magic Meals two years before McDonald’s began selling and promoting the Happy Meal (Minute Man would eventually sell the rights to Magic Meals to Burger King in the 1980s).
Minute Man also beat McDonald’s to the punch on a signature sandwich. The “Big M” was a double, full-sized patty burger that came with cheese, chopped onion, lettuce, tomato and a relish sauce which debuted in 1966 – a full year before the introduction of the Big Mac.
Minute Man became part of the fabric of Arkansas food culture. Sadly, the chain dwindled over the years to a single location that still operates today in El Dorado.
Or, at least, it had dwindled … until entrepreneur Perry Smith got involved, obtaining permission from the last Minute Man manager, Linda McGoogan. Smith has worked with a new team to bring the Minute Man legacy back into action and, in 2020, the first new Minute Man was opened in Jacksonville, Arkansas.