|Founded||May 3, 1949|
|Founder||George J. Black|
6832 Charlene Way,|
Fort Travis, Kings,
Number of locations
The majority of Shirley's locations are fast food restaurants which serve mainly hamburgers, cheeseburgers, sandwiches, salads, and french fries. It is also notable for the inclusion of international fare and Sierran dishes such as dessiné hot boxes and fish tacos on most of its locations' menus. It pioneered the 24/7 business model with drive-thrus and later in-store locations, and offering all-day breakfast and lunch. Traditionally, the restaurant's locations utilized a retro, 1950's-themed diner aesthetic for its interior and exterior. Some locations functioned as both a fast-food restaurant and a sit-in diner restaurant, including the original 12 locations prior to franchising. Since the 2010s, Shirley's has shifted towards modernizing the appearance and presentation of its restaurants, and continues to expand its menu by testing promotional items or offering seasonal items. It has opened 15 new locations which are traditional table service diner-style restaurants similar to the original 12 locations since 2012. All of its diner locations are open 24/7 and never close, except where required by law. It is also known for offering large meal options, most famously Big Frank's order.
Shirley's was originally founded in 1949 as Shirley Black Burgers in Fort Travis by George J. Black and Christopher Helewitz. The restaurant's namesake derived from Black's eldest daughter, Shirley, who complained that there were no restaurants in the area which served hamburgers the way she enjoyed it. Black opened the restaurant with his high school friend Helewitz in order to create a restaurant that would cater to his daughter's taste. According to the company official history, the distinctive square-shaped patties was the result of Shirley Black's preference of square patties over the standard circular ones. In order to attract customers, Black frequently introduced novelty items for promotional sales such as chili cones and potato ball salads, two of which have become permanent fixtures on the restaurant menu.
The restaurant advertised itself as a family-centered establishment and was one of the first restaurants to pioneer in children's playground sets and meals sold with toy products. In 1951, it introduced the drive-thru, equipped with a two-way speaker system, which was a relatively novel innovation at the time. It opened its second location in Oildale and its third in Sierra City in 1954.
In 1956, Shirley's opened its first location outside of Kings, opening a location in Fremontshire, Gold Coast. Black and Helewitz were approached by several buyers after the Fremontshire location proved to be a commercial success in the area. They rejected each of the offers, including a $20 million offer from Ted Goldman, an investor who spearheaded the franchising of Fifi's.
The chain had 21 locations in 1970 when George J. Black died. Christopher Helewitz retired and ownership was left to Black's 30-year old son, Terry Black, who became the company's president. Under Terry's leadership, the restaurant expanded rapidly during Great War II by selling the popular "Bond Burgers", where the company would use 20% of its profits from Bond Burger sales towards buying war bonds to support the war effort. Terry Black died in a helicopter crash in 1976, leaving the company in the hands of his son, Finn. Within a year, Finn Black sold the majority stake to private equity firm Watson Mathers Capital. Watson Mathers Capital had acquired a number of other chain restaurants. Shirley's expansion slowed down during the 1980s as revenues fell due to shifting consumer preferences. Rising debt and underperforming cash flows forced Watson Mathers Capital to sell off some of its other businesses, while it retained Shirley's. It forced over 50 store closures, bringing the total number of Shirley's in operation to just 22 across Sierra in 1986.
In 1989, Manitoban-based McCarthy Investments acquired 75% of Shirley's from Watson Mathers Capital. Future Manitoban prime minister Matthew McCarthy became the new CEO and restructured the company's finances and operations. He introduced a lighter menu, focusing more heavily on hamburgers, steaks, and breakfast food, and oversaw changes in bottom-level and mid-level management practices. Shirley's began franchising in 1991, a model which greatly improved the company's business. In 1993, Shirley's discontinued offering steak, replacing it with more uniquely Sierran fares such as dessiné and hot boxes. These introductions were a huge commercial success and pivotal in Shirley's resurgent expansion. It opened its first restaurant in Astoria in 1994 and then Superior and Manitoba each in 1995.
At its fast food locations, Shirley's offers hamburgers, chicken sandwiches, chicken wraps, fried foods, salads, and hot boxes. At its diner locations, Shirley's offers its fast food items in addition to steaks, roast beef, pork chops, pizzas, flatbreads, pasta, and seafood. Both versions of Shirley offer all-day breakfast items such as pancakes, waffles, hash browns, and omelets.
The standard burgers sold at Shirley's include the hamburger, the cheeseburger, the double cheeseburger, the triple cheeseburger, the chicken sandwich, the spicy chicken sandwich, the fish sandwich, the rib sandwich, and the gyro burger.
Shirley's offers a variety of side orders including French fries, cheese fries, chili cheese fries, carne asada fries, curly fries, jalapeño poppers, cheese curds, onion rings, chicken nuggets, potato salad, macaroni salad, chili, fried zucchini, and tempura.
Between 2011 and 2015, the fast-food version of Shirley's offered "gourmet" versions of its items for additional upcharge that replaced its buns with artisan breads and added premium ingredients. The lineup of gourmet burgers was discontinued following poor sales but was incorporated into Shirley's diner menus instead.
The Temple Burger is Shirley's signature menu item and is based on the original hamburgers and cheeseburgers sold by George J. Black and Christopher Helewitz. The sandwich is billed as the "Fair and Square Sandwich" due to its distinctively square-shaped beef patties. The modern recipe is a burger with a charbroiled beef patty, sesame seed bun, mayonnaise, lettuce, tomato, pickles, ketchup, and caramelized onions. Optional, add-on ingredients such as American cheese, jalapeño peppers, salsa, pico de gallo, pineapple, bacon, guacamole, mustard, or barbecue sauce are available upon request.
The chili cone is a deep-fried bread cone filled with chili, cheese, onions, sour cream, and corn chips. It is one of the signature items on Shirley's menu and one of its most popular non-sandwich items. The meat in the chili comes from the leftover scraps of cooked burger patties on the grill (although the meat can be cooked "fresh" from the grill upon request). Additional toppings, fixings, or substitutes are available upon request, such as a vegetarian or vegan version without the meat and/or dairy.
Potato ball salad
Big Frank's order
Structure and operations
Shirley's is a subsidiary of McCarthy Investments, a privately held holding company based in Manitoba. Shirley's income comes from multiple sources. It derives most of its income from a combination of real estate, rent, and franchise fees. Only one-fifth of all Shirley's stores are company-owned with the rest being owned by franchisees. There are dozens of subsidiaries that operate under Shirley's, both within the Kingdom of Sierra and internationally, that have specialized functions and purposes for the company and its brand. Its largest master franchise operators are Doncaster Food Corporation (owns a quarter of all stores in the Kingdom of Sierra and a third in Astoria) and Stevie Jo's (operates nearly all Shirley's stores in the United Kingdom).
Shirley's is headquartered in Fort Travis, Kings and has additional offices in San Jose, Santa Clara, and Porciúncula, Gold Coast. The headquarters is located in the city downtown in a 10-story building complex and is over 400,000 square feet. It operates in more than 75 countries and territories, with more than 12,400 locations worldwide.
The Shirley Black Children's Foundation is the official non-profit charitable organization affiliated with Shirley's. Founded in 2003, it focuses on raising funds to support foster children, victims of child abuse and neglect, and children with disabilities or chronic illnesses. 1% of all purchases are automatically donated to the Shirley Black Children's Foundation.