If you grew up in the 1980s and 1990s, you’ll probably remember it as the era in which fast food outlets bagan making their appearance in Malaysia.
In 1982, the first McDonald’s outlet opened up at the intersection of Jalan Sultan Ismail and Jalan Bukit Bintang. Its opening was met with lots of excitement and fanfare, as can be seen from pictures of the official opening.
Those days, a visit to fast food restaurants were considered a real treat, and reserved for special occasions like birthdays and good exam grades. Today, fast food is viewed differently and many people see it as casual dining, dropping by during lunchtime or getting a quick takeaway on the way home.
Some fast food brands, however, didn’t stand the test of time and only appeared for a limited period of time in the country. Most of these names started out in the Klang Valley and expanded outwards.
Let’s see how many of these fast food brands you remember from your childhood:
Grandy’s, also known as Grandy’s Country Cooking, is best remembered for its fried chicken. It was marketed as an American fast food chain and featured many typical southern favourites.
Apart from the usual burgers, Grandy’s had a Country Fried Steak meal consisting of a slab of crispy boneless chicken, with sides of boiled corn and mashed potatoes. Many also remember their chicken porridge and refillable soft drinks. Another unique thing they had were cinnamon rolls.
There was an outlet open at Subang Parade in the early 1990s, and another one at Ampang. Apparently there were plenty of outlets all over Malaysia, but they slowly disappeared as the new millennium came around.
One of the lasting marks that Grandy’s left was probably their TV Commercial, which has been preserved on YouTube.
You may be thinking “ Hey! I’ve heard of this name before in some movie”. You may be thinking about the show Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle
. The thing is, way before the movie was released, Malaysia had its own chain of White Castle restaurants, serving their signature sliders.
(If you’re wondering what a slider is, it’s basically a really small burger and you’d have to eat a whole bunch to feel full.)
There was definitely one in Jalan Raja Laut, at the intersection with Jalan Chow Kit, which is currently occupied by a KFC restaurant. Some also remember one opening at Aeon Taman Maluri.
Those growing up in Malacca will remember that one outlet opened up along the same row as Great Wall shopping centre, near Soon Seng Plaza.
There were some complaints that their burgers were too small and consumers seemed to prefer the standard palm-sized burgers all the other fast food places were offering, so this might have contributed to its decline.
Shakey’s is one of the first foreign pizza brands to make it to Malaysian shores, and at one time in the early 1990s, there seemed to be one outlet everywhere you turned in the Klang Valley. The first Shakey’s outlet actually opened in 1978, way before Pizza Hut even showed up.
Shakey’s pizzas were delicious and many mentioned that they were very generous with their toppings. They were also known for their pastas and fried chicken. However, one of their sides that was a fan favourite was their Mojos, which were deep fried potato discs.
They survived quite long, but were bought over by another pizza chain. The last Shakey’s outlet closed in 2009.
Hartz Chicken Buffet
Hartz Chicken Buffet is an American brand. They introduced a new dining concept to Malaysian in the mid 1990s. When they started out, they offered a huge variety of dishes cooked according to authentic American Recipes. Basically, you pay a flat rate of about RM15 (when they first opened) and you could help yourself to all the chicken you wanted: fried, roasted, grilled and more.
There were also a bunch of interesting side dishes, like mashed potatoes, pasta, fried potatoes, coleslaw, casseroles and salad. The highlight was definitely the dessert, where diners could choose from a whole lot of pies, cakes and ice cream.
In Peninsular Malaysia, the menu changed somewhere after the early 2000s, and they included local dishes like fried rice, steamed veggies and white rice. However, the quality of food and service began to mysteriously decline after that, leading to them closing their last branch in Sunway Pyramid somewhere in 2013/2014.
If you’re curious, there one last Hartz Chicken Buffet left standing in Kuching, which apparently still offers dishes straight from the US franchise without localisation.
Before KFC ever made an appearance in Malaysia, locals would hang out at McDota for their fried chicken fix.
Surprisingly though, McDota still has one outlet left, in Segamat, Johor.
McDota is a home grown brand, and their menu offers all the basics of fast food like fries, fried chicken, nuggets and burgers. According to their website, they started operating in 1978 but failed to sustain their business, most probably due to heavy competition with several foreign brands trying to set up shop here during the same time.
When they started out, their menu items were really simple. A McDota snack plate consisted of one piece of fried chicken, two buns and a drink.
The fact that at least one branch survives in Segamat is a real testament to the brand’s tenacity to hold on throughout the changing decades. It should be noted that they’ve added some new items to their menu since the 80s, like rice and roasted chicken, so head on down to Segamat for a taste of nostalgia.
Fast food brands come and go in Malaysia, but certain brands definitely make us more sentimental and nostalgic, especially if you have a pleasant memory related to it.
Fast food in the 1980s and 90s also remind us of simpler times when people were more relaxed and there weren’t any internet or smart phones. Take the KFC menu from the 1980s for example, where you can still find beer and ice-cream jelly, and snack plates that cost only RM3.95.
Take us back to those days, please!