For better or for worse, it seems that fast food is a pillar of the local restaurant industry. It’s quite understandable why – it’s tasty, it makes for a cheap treat and it’s, well, fast.
Surprisingly enough, the local fast-food scene is as old as Malaysia itself, with A&W being the first to open in 1963.
KFC followed suit, launching their first outlet in 1973 while McDonald’s opened their iconic Jalan Bukit Bintang outlet in 1982. Pizza Hut began operations that same year.
Even now, new fast-food chains continue to spring up with Taco Bell, Five Guys and most recently, Jollibee making landfall. That’s not even mentioning homegrown names like Marrybrown, KGB and BurgerLab.
While some fast-food chains have not only survived but thrived in this competitive industry, others have become distant memories.
Here are just a handful that have left little trace in local foodie history. Have you eaten at any of these places?
At present, Pizza Hut, Domino’s and US Pizza are working hard to be at the top of the pizza market, but there used to be another player in the game. Shakey’s Pizza was a very strong contender back in the ‘90s, possibly due to its early bird advantage. Older customers might remember that the food was rather good, with the potato mojos being a favourite.
Shakey’s started operations in 1978, and for the following decades, it felt like there was a Shakey’s Pizza around every corner in the Klang Valley. Unfortunately, with the emergence of other pizza chains, competition stiffened and by 2009, the last Shakey’s Pizza outlet shuttered for good.
Most people are unaware of it, but this American fast-food chain is generally believed to be the first hamburger chain in the world. White Castle was famous for its “sliders”, which were basically small burgers meant to be eaten in large quantities.
If you’re a fan of comedy films, you might already have learnt this from watching “Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle”. There used to be at least one branch along Jalan Chow Kit in Kuala Lumpur, as well as one in Melaka, but both have disappeared.
Why did White Castle fail here? There’s no one explanation, but maybe size does matter for Malaysians – when it comes to burgers, anyway.
While the Manhattan Fish Market remains the go-to place for seafood, Grandy’s used to occupy that lofty position. It offered southern American food, somewhat like Texas Chicken, but Grandy’s marketed theirs as Louisiana-style cuisine.
In fact, it was one of the first fast-food chains to arrive in Malaysia, which makes its demise all the more surprising. In addition to burgers, Grandy’s was famous for its boneless chicken with mashed potatoes and boiled corn.
Anyone remember Hankyu Jaya in Bangsar? There used to be a Grandy’s there, where parents would often bring their happy kids for the occasional treat.
Malaysian millennials are quite likely to remember this defunct fast-food chain, since they were everywhere during the 2000s. The chain actually opened in Malaysia in the ‘80s, so one might argue it did have a good run, all things considered.
Square burger patties were all the rage at Wendy’s, and locals were fond of the baked potatoes and chilli cups. Wendy’s closed shop as recently as 2019, however, as its franchise licences were not renewed.
Honestly, it’s a shame Wendy’s didn’t survive. It would have been fun to have an extremely sarcastic social media account roasting Malaysians, like its American counterpart does. (Look it up!)
Hartz Chicken Buffet
In a surprising twist, this one supposedly extinct fast-food chain still lives on in Malaysia. Hartz Chicken Buffet certainly bid its heyday goodbye, with its dozen outlets reduced to a sole survivor in Kuching, Sarawak.
Still, their food is certainly different from its competitors, as it serves chicken cooked in various ways: grilled, roasted and fried. When it first set up shop in the ‘90s, it cost only RM15 to eat as much chicken as you desired.
In addition to the usual side dishes, Hartz also served lip-smacking pies, ice-cream and cakes for dessert.
Long John Silver’s
A’hoy, Malaysian mateys! Or so long, rather, since this fast-food chain has left Malaysian shores for good. Long John Silver’s main offering was its signature batter-dipped fish, served with a generous portion of fries. Shrimp and chicken were also on the menu, along with seafood salad and clam chowder, rarely seen here.
It was first spotted making landfall here at the turn of the 21st century, with outlets opening in shopping malls like Berjaya Times Square and Midvalley Mega Mall. It’s hard to say why Long John Silver’s did not catch on here; in any case, Manhattan Fish Market and Fish & Co have since filled their niche market.
This article was first published on Free Malaysia Today.
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