The Devil's Net is Made with Onion Rings

Jack in the Box restaurant, 1964, courtesy of Charles Phoenix

I like to tell my crew, family, and friends, “We prove our resolve and courage by resisting temptation.” Oscar Wilde said, “Do you really think it is weakness that yields to temptation?  I tell you that there are terrible temptations which it requires strength, strength and courage to yield to.” And President Reagan said, “Middle age is when you're faced with two temptations and you choose the one that will get you home by nine o'clock.”

The Tacos at Jack in the Box, and Original Recipe Kentucky Fried Chicken are two temptations that, like a narcotic to a junkie, sound so good as an idea, but end badly. They smell so nice and call to each person passing like Odysseus’ sirens. And then when you have finished your meal, you immediately feel deep regret and shame. “Why did I eat that?” I berate myself. Fortunately, this temptation only rears its head on long road trips, at the most once every two years.

The version designed in the early 1960s uses the entire building as a sign and a symbol. It’s clean, simple, and efficient—a masterpiece of modernism. Russell Forester designed the “big box” restaurant and said, “It’s not really a building. It’s an envelope to enclose machines to dispense food.” Meets the big tenets of modernism if you ask me. Plus the talking drive thru Jack (in the box) is so much more fun than a big board with illuminated photos of food. When I yield to temptation I want the whole cheesy enchilada with clowns, bright colors and wacky type, not a tasteful urban yet sophisticated attitude.

The Jack in the Box drive thru contraption

Jack in the Box, late 1950s

Hot Diggety Dog

Hot Dog on a Stick logo

You may remember my emotional rant about Ihop recently and its tragic mistake to lose the “pancake” concept. I am heartened when someone gets it right. Hot Dog on a Stick is a favorite of most people I know. Teenage boys like to stand by and watch the young women employees pump the lemonade machine. Kids like the cheese on a stick.

I like the design aesthetic. Somebody smart decided to stay with the look that has a decidedly 1960s vibe. I’d like to believe that this was on purpose, not because somebody simply forgot to rebrand and then it came back into style. The look is what a hot dog stand should be: bright, cheerful, playful, and simple. There is a rigor in its implementation that should make any hard-core identity manager swoon. The drinks match the color palette of the logo, the uniforms reiterate the attitude, and the minimal menu reinforces the core experience: hot dogs on a stick. Life is serious, but corn dogs really aren’t. This is a perfect combination of form, function, and communication fusing together perfectly.

Hot Dog on a Stick stand

Hot Dog on a Stick packaging

Hot Dog on a Stick uniforms

Hot Dog on a Stick drinks and uniforms

The lemonade pumping

Hot Dog on a Stick signage

Who do you think you're fooling?

International House of Pancakes

I’m sure most people have memories of going to the International House of Pancakes with their parents or grandparents and getting the Belgian Waffles. This is the exceedingly sweet combination of pancakes, whipped cream, powdered sugar, and berries, and you can add syrup if you still are lucid. Up until a year ago, I’d never had this. On a long press check for Mohawk in Dallas, my good friend and printing genius for Mohawk, Pam McGuire suggested I try them. Well, I’ll tell you, at 3:00 am when you don’t know which way is up, they’re damned good. This particular ihop had framed artifacts from the original International House of Pancakes, and they were damned good too. I understand the strategy, thought leader, brand elasticity issues and why the name changed to ihop, but I like International House of Pancakes better. My message to the brand managers at ihop: Why not be proud of who you are? Embrace your pancake expertise. You’re not Denny’s or Bob’s Big Boy, nobody is fooled and doesn’t think “pancakes” and ihop. Why not be the best pancake place in the entire world? Dinner be damned, make me proud to order Belgian Waffles.

International House of Pancakes match book cover

International House of Pancakes menu

International House of Pancakes illustration

International House of Pancakes cup and saucer

International House of Pancakes placemat