Bronco's Burgers has been an institution in the city of Omaha since 1959. Being the first fast food restaurant in the city, Bronco's was integral in changing the diets of the people of Omaha and paved the way for similar restaurants to enter the market. Omaha has one of the most vibrant dining cultures in the United States and we can point to Bronco's as a pioneer in the industry.
Backstory and Context
The original location of Bronco's was at 30th and Fort St. in the northern section of Omaha in 1959. After the success of the original location, the company started to expand and three years after the original location was opened the second store was opened on 45th and Leavenworth streets. Like the other Bronco's, this new location had a neon sign erected to draw the attention of hungry drivers on Leavenworth street. This sign has become an icon not only for the restaurant but also the area of town that it is located in. The specific strip of Leavenworth street is adorned by multiple large neon signs, and the bright spinning lasso of the Bronco's cowboy transports citizens back to the 1960's and to that traditional dining experience. Bronco's not only is indicative of the city of Omaha as a whole but also of American fast food culture and acts as a time capsule for the citizens of the city.
The initial success of the restaurant garnered the attention of investors, and franchises soon popped up in the states neighboring Nebraska as well as around the Omaha metro area. While most of those locations have closed, the founding Barnes family still successfully operates two locations in Omaha. Bill Barnes was the creator of Broncos and came up with the idea for fast food restaurant after taking a trip to Chicago. According to an article from WOWT in Omaha, Barnes got the idea for the name from playing "cowboys and indians" as a child.
In an interview the current owner of Bronco's Burgers, Blake Barnes, attributed the success of his restaurant to the continued consistency of his staff and the quality of the ingredients that the company has right from the beginning. One man who has dedicated his life to maintaining the standards of Bronco's is Henry Rice. Rice has been with the company sense its inception and has worked to ensure that every burger sold today has the exact same quality as a burger sold in 1959. While McDonald's was marketing themselves on serving millions and millions, the Bronco's staff calculated that Rice alone had served at least one million burgers. Bronco's has never used frozen ingredients, and Barnes seeks to create a product that has quality that is more akin to a diner than what some would think of as fast food.
One of the more iconic aspects of Bronco's is their process for serving french fries. Instead of the usual moderate portion control usually displayed at a typical fast food restaurant, Bronco's fills the portioned bag of fries over the bag containing the rest of the order. Instead of stopping when the small bag is full, they add another heaping scoop, whichinevitably falls into the larger bag. This practice definitely adds a touch of humor and pizzaz to the meal.
Bronco's has been extremely successful throughout the years by sticking to their original vision of good food for hardworking people. While the success of the brand has ebbed and flowed over time, the city of Omaha has embraced Bronco's. Bronco's truly is an institution in the city of Omaha and their product is proof that maintaining quality through integrity can still be a successful business model.
broncoburgers.com. Accessed December 4, 2019. https://www.broncoburgers.com/.
Barnes, Blake. Interviewed by Paul Magnuson. Phone interview, December 9, 2019.
Chapman, John. “Bronco's Celebrates 50 Years.” Omaha Breaking News, Weather and Sports. Nebraska News. | WOWT.com. Accessed December 9, 2019. https://www.wowt.com/home/headlines/57616782.html.
Grace, Rachel P. Omaha Food : Bigger Than Beef. Charleston, SC: American Plate, 2015.
Jakle, John A, and Keith A Sculle. Fast Food : Roadside Restaurants in the Automobile Age. The Road and American Culture. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1999.