In 1957, Baltimore Colts football players Alan Ameche and Joe Campanella, along with Louis Fischer, opened a hamburger restaurant called Ameche's at 4009 North Point Road in Dundalk, Maryland just outside of Baltimore. Soon several other stores were added in the Baltimore area. In 1959, the trio was joined by Colt's captain Gino Marchetti, and the chain became known as Gino's Drive In. Within a year the company went public to secure funds for expansion and began to reach up the East coast into New England and as far South as North Carolina.
Gino's did not franchise, each store was company owned and operated. Gino's was distinguished for it's philanthrophic efforts, aimed at helping young people. Executives of the company supported many educational, cultural, recreational and athletic projects.
By 1969, there were 100 Gino's Restaurants, growing to 330 in 1972. In 1978 there were 359 Gino's stores.
A History of Gino's Hamburgers
Beginning in the early 1960s, Gino's was the outlet for Kentucky Fried Chicken in the areas they operated. Gino's feature sandwich was the 'Gino Giant'-dubbed "A Banquet on a Bun". In the early 1970's, the chain found an opportunity for growth by merging with the 18 unit Top's Drive-In chain in Northern Virginia and adopting Top's line of 'Sirloiner' burgers. In 1976, Gino's retired the Giant sandwich and replaced it with the 'Gino Hero'. The Hero turned out to be unsuccessful and led Gino's to return the Giant. Prize fighter Muhammad Ali was hired to film a TV commercial to announce the Giant's return. In 1978 'Salad Combo' platters were added to the lineup along with Salad Bars, also added were Drive-through windows at some locations. Also in 1978 the unsuccessful 'Gino Hero' sandwich was added to the menu. It is said the Hero was one of the reasons for Gino's downfall. Around 1980 Cheesesteak sandwiches became available along with a line of breakfasts. Around 1981 Gino's made the unfortunate decision to discontinue the trademark Giant, Sirloiner and hamburger/cheeseburger and replace the line with an all new menu that included Homestyle Hamburgers, Roast Beef, Chili and Junior Burgers. Along with the new menu tan colored awnings were added to the exterior of the Gino's buildings and carpeting was installed in some of the interior spaces. Realizing the mistake of discontinuing the famous Giant, the sandwich was reinstated in 1983.
Gino's ran TV commercials that featured comedians Soupy Sales and Dom Deluise, who played the Gino Genie. Over the years Gino's Advertising slogans were "Everybody Goes to Gino's" during the 1960's into the 70's, "Gino's...only Gino's" in the 1970's and "Gino's Gives You Freedom of Choice" as a bicentennial theme in 1976.
In the early 1970's, Gino's purchased the Rustler Steak House chain which was founded by Joe Campanella in Baltimore. Rustler featured top-quality steak meals at budget prices. Many Rustler locations were then located next to Gino's restaurants. The Rustler buildings featured an Old West exterior and frontier interior. Meals were usually served cafeteria-style by staff dressed in Western outfits. By 1972 there were 14 Rustler restaurants, growing to 147 by the end of 1978.
In early 1982 Gino's, by this time headquarted in the Philadelphia suburbs, was sold to the Marriott Corporation. Mariott purchased the chain to increase the presence of its Roy Roger's Restaurant chain. With this, 180 of the 313 Gino's locations were converted to Roy Roger's outlets, the remaining stores-those with an existing Roy Roger's nearby or poor locations- were closed and sold.
The dismantling of the Gino's chain opened the areas they operated in to Kentucky Fried Chicken, which allowed KFC operate their own stores where previously Gino's held the rights to sell KFC. KFC purchased many former Gino's from Mariott and began a major expansion in these areas.
Mariott sold the Rustler chain in early 1983-108 locations to Tenly Enterprises which was a newly founded company and the remainder of the Rustler locations were sold to Collins Foods and were converted to Sizzler Steak Houses.
Today, alot of the people who worked for Gino's stay in touch with each other, and in 2002 held a get-together at a former manager's home with over 120 Gino's alumni attending from all over the country. Gino's is rememberd by these people as being a very unique and wonderful company to work for.
John A. Jakle and Keith A. Sculle, Fast Food, page 87
Phillip Langdon, Orange Roofs, Golden Arches, page 108
A Rustler Steak House newspaper ad from 1974 mentioning locations in southern New Jersey.
Ameche's and Gino's Hamburgers roadside sings after they acquired the Kentucky Fried Chicken franchises in thier areas. The bucket covered the '15c' on the Gino's sign.