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Forum Cafeteria Review


One of the earliest fast food joints in the United States was the Forum Cafeteria chain of restaurants. It was a bustling place for workers and shopping retirees who wished to grab a quick inexpensive bite amidst the rush of the city. This post will take you down the streets of Kansas way back in 1921 to give you a Forum Cafeteria Review to showcase the era that it reflected.


How Forum came into existence

The company was started in 1921 by Clarence Hayman who owned several other restaurants. He introduced the concept of cafeteria-style restaurants with the Forum Cafeteria chain of restaurants. The first joint was opened at 1220 Grand Avenue in Kansas City, Missouri and gradually many branches spanned other Midwestern cities.


Some interesting facts

  • Back then the ways of life were quite simple including grabbing a lunch at a local restaurant. If you intended to have a meal at the Forum, you had to stand in a queue to select what you wanted to eat. Taking a tray, you had to slide it down the alley while choosing from among the soups, entrées, vegetables, breads, desserts, and the beverages. The cashier, who stood at the end of the line, billed you for the meal and then you could grab a seat at a nearby table to enjoy a freshly prepared meal.
  • The Forum was famous for a lot of dishes. It was the time when a Lemon Chiffon Pie could be had for 13 cents only. One could choose from among some mid-century cuisine items like the fruit cocktail lime Jell-O medley, Spanish rice, breaded pork chops, Salisbury steak, Ham and Beans, Spanish Omelet, Raisin Pie, and combination salad.
  • The company even had a monthly house magazine that included news about the day to day happenings in the lives of the employees and welcomed the new joiners too.
  • Even though such efforts were made to make the employees feel comfortable and a 25% discount was provided to them on their meals, the same amount was deducted from their paychecks as well.
  • The Forum cafeterias were well known for their artistic and elaborate decorative ambience. According to Larry Millett’s account in the Minnesota Historical Society Press “The Forum was in many respects the Twin Cities’ most delightful Art Deco fantasy, one still remembered fondly by those who had the good fortune - especially as children - to experience its sleek, silvery splendor”.
  • The Forum restaurants, during those days used modern ventilation system, mechanical dishwashing and sterilization and had exquisite architecture and seating arrangement.
  • In early 1970s the Forum era was in its last phase as rumors began to swirl that major fast fooders like McDonald’s and Burger King would overtake the market. Even though the cafeteria chain had an influential fan following, the plug was pulled for the company in 1975.


Forum Cafeterias were places where all were welcome - children, adults, wealthy, and farmers. The changes in food and hospitality industry cater to the increasing changes in demands but the saying “Old is gold” still confirms to the Forum way of serving .One such example is that the Forum Cafeteria still continues to be a repository of urban folklore in the state of Minnesota where people fondly remember it as the place for one and all. 


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Forum Cafeteria Review