The first family-restaurant chain was Howard Johnson's, begun in the 1930s. Rather than being a pioneer, the Howard Johnson's chain borrowed its format from other successful restaurant types. Under the recognizable orange roof, each restaurant had two sections - a homey dining area that provided tearoom ambience and a dining counter rimmed with stools where customers ordered hot dogs, ice cream, and other simple, fast fare, were located in each restaurant. By merging the respectability of the full-service meal and the convenience of the luncheonette, Howard Johnson addressed everyone's needs in a single stop. In the years immediately following World War II, rival companies in the family-restaurant market began to pose a threat to Johnson's preeminently successful formula.
The family restaurant is a popular Wisconsin institution. Examples can be found across the state in communities of varying sizes. Many are located on or near popular thoroughfares, while others are located in towns and cities, away from crowded streets. In recent years the chain restaurant has replaced the locally owned restaurant, ensuring that a traveling motorist receives the same meal regardless of the location.