Minute Man of America was a pioneering fast-food chain founded by Little Rock (Pulaski County) native Wesley T. (Wes) Hall (1915–2002). At the height of its operation during the 1960s and 1970s, Minute Man had fifty-seven locations—some franchised, some company-owned—in Arkansas and seven surrounding states. By 2018, the only Minute Man location in operation was in El Dorado (Union County). A location in Jacksonville (Pulaski County) opened in 2020 but closed in 2022.
The first Minute Man restaurant opened at 407 Broadway in Little Rock on May 26, 1948, as a coffee shop with twenty-four-hour service. Hall had three partners at the time: Oliver Harper, Walter Oathout, and Alton Barnett. In 1956, Hall bought out the other partners and converted the flagship store on Broadway into a fast-food establishment. A historical marker was later placed at the site.
According to Hall, Minute Man was a forerunner in a number of fast-food concepts. In 1948, the Raytheon Company placed three experimental “RadaRange” microwave ovens in locations across the United States; Hall and his partners received one of the three. Thus, they pioneered the use of microwave ovens in the restaurant business. The most popular and publicized offering from these ovens was surely the Radar Deep Dish Pie, a sweet treat that many Arkansans remember for its tendency to burn the roof of one’s mouth. Minute Man also sold “real charcoal-broiled hamburgers” and offered a gourmet hamburger with a double full-sized meat patty and extras a full year before McDonald’s debuted the Big Mac.
Hall’s marketing strategies were just as groundbreaking. Minute Man was the first fast-food restaurant to give a free glass to customers as part of a Coca-Cola promotion in the early 1970s. Additionally, Minute Man was the first to offer a specialty meal for children, called the Magic Meal. Burger King bought the rights to use the Magic Meal concept and name from 1982 to 1983. Minute Man’s rights to the slogan “old-fashioned hamburgers” were later sold to Wendy’s.
Wes Hall was born in Little Rock on April 22, 1915, and graduated from Little Rock High School in 1933. Hall was well-acquainted with the food industry throughout his young adult life. He worked at the Food Palace, Little Rock’s first supermarket, from 1933 to 1936. During this time, he also attended Draughon Business College, studying accounting part time. From 1936 until 1942, Hall worked for Kraft Food Company. He went on to serve in the U.S. Army infantry and spent seven months in the Pacific Theater during World War II. Hall was recalled to active duty in 1951–52, at which time he operated mess halls for the Quartermaster Corps at Fort Chaffee in Fort Smith (Sebastian County) and Camp Crowder in Missouri. He also worked for Lido Enterprises, a cafeteria and restaurant business, until 1951.
From 1951 until 1981, Hall operated Minute Man of America in conjunction with Dixie Equipment Company, Food Service Supply, and Razorback Sign Company. After selling his controlling interests in these businesses, Hall formed Corporate Finance Associates, a merger and finance company, in 1981. In 1985, Hall founded Wes Hall, Inc., a real estate company, before retiring in January 1991. Hall served as an adviser to the Service Corporation of Retired Executives (SCORE) until his death on May 8, 2002.
In 2018, the company’s owner, Linda McGoogan, partnered with Matchbox Food Group founder and Arkansas native Perry J. Smith to begin making plans to revive the Minute Man brand. A new Minute Man location opened on September 11, 2020, in Jacksonville. During the COVID-19 pandemic, a food truck began service in downtown Little Rock on January 13, 2021, and at one point the restaurant was operating three food trucks. By early June 2022, the Jacksonville location had closed.
For additional information:
Brinkley, Rhett. “Minute Man: Owner Perry J. Smith on Relaunching an Arkansas Institution.” Arkansas Times, October 2, 2020. https://arktimes.com/dining/2020/10/02/minute-man-owner-perry-j-smith-on-relaunching-an-arkansas-institution (accessed June 2, 2022).
“Minute Man of America.” This Is Arkansas (November 1972): 8–9.
“Minute Man Franchises Sought.” Arkansas Gazette, August 20, 1972, p. 1C.
Minute Man Training Video, 1969. Center for Arkansas History and Culture. University of Arkansas at Little Rock, Little Rock, Arkansas. http://cdm15728.contentdm.oclc.org/cdm/singleitem/collection/p15728coll5/id/836/rec/82 (accessed June 2, 2022).
Mylonas, Monica Madey. “Wes Hall’s Minute Man: An Education.” Arkansauce: The Journal of Arkansas Foodways 3 (2013): 10–11. Online at http://libinfo.uark.edu/SpecialCollections/news/arkansauce/Arkansauce2013.pdf (accessed June 2, 2022).
Steed, Stephen. “Minute Man Observes 70th Year.” Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, May 6, 2018, pp. 1G–2G.
Wes Hall Papers. Center for Arkansas History and Culture. University of Arkansas at Little Rock, Little Rock, Arkansas.
Monica Madey Mylonas
Center for Arkansas History and Culture
Back in the day Minute Man was the place to get a burger in Little Rock. We always stopped in on the downtown burger joint for the best in town. Always a treat.
Minute Man was also in Pine Bluff, so just a hop skip and a jump across town to get the best there was to offer. Wish they had stuck around. There still is not a burger joint anywhere in the USA to get a burger as good as these. They need to bring ’em back.
I used to go to Minute Man on dates in 1959. It was on Broadway in Little Rock. Best food ever. I hope it is just as good when it comes back to Little Rock. Can’t wait.
Grew up in Little Rock in the 1970s and have many fond memories of this wonderful hamburger chain. We would always eat at the Cantrell location. Wish I could have a Minute Man hamburger today.
While going to college in Fayetteville, Arkansas, in the mid-1970s I used to love Minute Man. I always got the same thing: the burger with smoke barbecue sauce and the miniature cherry cobbler. It was such a great chain. I do not understand what happened to it.
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