Many folks are familiar with the Royal Castle based out of Miami, Florida, but did not know there was a separate Royal Castle company operating out of Ohio. The people of Miami and Cleveland remember the company fondly, where they had their base operations.
I’ve compiled below what should bring back some good and, in a few cases, the ugly history of Miami’s first burger chain.
There is so much to cover, and I tried to touch on all the essential topics. Who knows, maybe one day I’ll write a full-length history of the Royal Castle System in book form. In the meantime, please leave your memories in the comments area.
Royal Castle History Table of Contents
- Royal Castle – Miami Company
- Royal Castle – Ohio Company
- Royal Castle Locations
- Royal Castle Hits 100 Locations
- Royal Castle Commissary
- Repurposed Royal Castle Buildings
- Some Newspaper Ads Over the Years
- The Royal Spatula
- Royal Castle Birch Beer
- Other Royal Castle Owned Businesses
- The End of the Royal Castle Chain
- Interview with Royal Castle Founder William Singer
- Visit the last Royal Castle
Royal Castle – Miami Company
Ohio transplant William Singer founded Royal Castle in 1938. The original location at 7957 NE 2nd Avenue in Miami was razed long ago.
Singer’s inspiration was the White Castle hamburger chain which was all over Ohio and had been founded more than 25 years earlier in Wichita, Kansas.
By the time that White Castle had migrated to South Florida in 1959, Royal Castle had a stranglehold on all of the mini-burger-loving folks of Miami.
They were round – unlike their square, northern White Castle counterparts – perhaps two half dollars wide and not much thicker, fried to within an inch of their lives and topped with minced fried onions and a couple of pickle slices.Miami Herald’s Jeffrey Weiss talking about the differences between the Royal Castle & White Castle burgers
Royal Castles were also known for their breakfasts. All of their orange juice was freshly squeezed to order, eggs were cooked in butter, and the coffee was served with heavy whipping cream.
The company would reach a peak of over 200 restaurant locations in the mid-1960s.
During its opening week of sales in Miami, the first store grossed $245.
The first twenty Royal Castle buildings were open air. After a disagreement with the powers (local government) that be, it necessitated the switch to a closed design.
William Singer had a local company design the iconic flat top, glass-fronted buildings that are still associated with Royal Castle to this day.
Another feature that longtime fans remember is that upon entering most Royal Castles, you would find their Fit for a King slogan embedded in the terrazzo floor.
COOL FACT: When he worked for Prince Castle, Ray Kroc of McDonald’s fame sold multimixer shake machines to Royal Castle.
Royal Castle Goes Public then Sold
The company went public in 1965.
A few years later, Royal Castle sold the company to Performance Systems Inc., owners of Minnie Pearl’s Chicken, in February 1969.
Performance Systems then became embroiled in a scandal with the Securities and Trade Commission over their method of reporting franchise fees.
By the time that Performance Systems announced 1969 earnings as a loss of thirty-nine million in September 1970, they were in financial trouble.
Performance Systems was forced to sell Royal Castle locations where the property value far exceeded the profit generated by the restaurant.
Forgotten Royal Castle History
It’s interesting to note that female carhops with flared pants served cars at the very first location. Why interesting? Women would not be allowed to work inside of a Royal Castle restaurant again until 1967.
The ugliest part of the company’s history was when blacks were not welcome inside of Royal Castle. They could only order from an outdoor take-out window.
Everything changed during the mid-1960s. James N. Brimberry would be the first black employee to work at a Royal Castle restaurant. The irony in all of this is that James would eventually purchase seven locations as the company was finally liquidated in 1979 after its bankruptcy in 1975.
He alone kept the Royal Castle banner alive all these years. Now, his grandson James Brimberry has followed in his footsteps.
Some films and tv programs have been filmed in or around Royal Castles like the James Bond film Goldfinger and the 2017 Best Picture Oscar winner Moonlight.
Royal Castle – Ohio Company
Many folks are familiar with the Royal Castle based out of Miami, which expanded to Georgia and Louisiana but did not know there was a separate Royal Castle company operating in Cleveland, Ohio & Michigan.
The Ohio-based Royal Castle was founded in 1940 and run by William Singer’s brother Samuel. The Ohio locations were almost identical to their sister restaurants from the Miami chain.
As the Miami restaurants were struggling to survive in 1973, the 32 locations in Ohio and Michigan were purchased by Sugardale Foods Inc.
In 1975, Sugardale closed all of the Ohio spots due to poor performance.
Royal Castle made several attempts to franchise but it never worked out for them.
Below you can flip through the franchising pamphlet from the late 1960s.
Royal Castle Locations
Royal Castle Hits 100 Locations
Royal Castle Commissary
In 1958, Royal Castle built a giant commissary along railroad tracks in Hialeah so that the company had room to grow. It even had a 24-hour restaurant. The building still stands today.
Repurposed Royal Castle Buildings
Royal Castle buildings had an unmistakable look. Many are still standing today and have been repurposed for another business.
Back in 1977 when Arbetter Hot Dogs expanded to a second location, it was in a former Royal Castle building at 12530 NE 6th Avenue (the building is gone).
The first Char-Hut location opened in 1976 in a former Royal Castle building at 700 NW 183rd Street (Miami Gardens).
1528 W Tennessee Street
Entenmann’s Bakery Outlet
Entenmann’s Bakery Outlet
6700 Pembroke Road
Pembroke Pines, Florida
Ernesto’s Taco Shop
Ernesto’s Taco Shop
20095 S Dixie Highway
Cutler Bay, Florida
Five Guys Burgers & Fries
Five Guys Burgers and Fries
1540 S. Dixie Highway (US 1)
Coral Gables, Florida
The Licking aka Finga Licking
The Licking, formerly Arnold’s Royal Castle
12490 NW 7th Avenue
North Miami, Florida
La Cruzada Restaurant
La Cruzada Restaurant
331 Park Place
5615 W Colonial Drive
1098 W 29th Street
3701 SW 8th Street
Some Newspaper Ads Over the Years
The Royal Spatula
The Royal Spatula, a company newsletter is a prized possession for Royal Castle collectors.
Royal Castle Birch Beer
Royal Castle would end up bottling their famous house-made Birch Beer and Castle Cola and selling it in Florida and Ohio supermarkets.
Other Royal Castle Owned Businesses
Royal Castle tried to diversify with Royal Carousel, an automated restaurant, Royal Sky Campgrounds, Criterion I Steakhouses, and Pizza Garden. None of them turned enough of a profit to get them out of the hole they were in.
Royal Carousel 1967
Read more about Royal Carousel (click here).
Royal Sky Campground 1972-1976
Criterion I Steakhouse 1973-1975
Pizza Garden 1973-1975
The End of the Royal Castle Chain
If you have a property that’s worth $120,000 and you’re only making a net profit of $5,000 a year then you aren’t getting a good return on your investment. And that was a position we were in.Kleber Dunklin, Royal Castle Chairman & President
To compete with the speed at which McDonald’s and their contemporaries could pump out burgers, Royal Castle began making the burgers in advance. The burgers would sit in a holding drawer, which affected the quality and taste.
The company attempted to rebrand and change the menu, but it was too late. In 1975, Royal Castle’s stockholders began to liquidate the company’s assets.
The final liquidation payment came in October 1979.
Interview with Royal Castle Founder William Singer
This news piece is from February, 9th, 1976. Ike Seamans speaks about the closing of Royal Castle restaurants and features an interview with founder William Singer.
Visit the last Royal Castle
There’s one Royal Castle left in Miami.
Make the drive over to 2700 NW 79th Street to get your fill of their hamburgers and birch beer.
Royal Castle Hamburgers in Miami, Florida
Royal Castle’s Royal Carousel
30 thoughts on “The History of Royal Castle Hamburgers”
I clearly remember visiting 2 in the Cleveland area. 16804 Lorain Rd., now a “Soup shop” à la Seinfeld and 14002 Triskett Rd., a donut place for the longest time and now a check cashing place. There were several more around the area but I never knew about them til later or saw them when they were Royal Castle.
When I was in my youth circa Late 1950s, Cleveland I would ride my bicycle to the Royal Castle on East 185 st. I had 50 cents and could buy 2 burgers (16 cents each) and a frosted mug of birch beer (5 cents). What a treat that was
We loved our nearest Royal Castle, it was at Green Road and Euclid Ave in Cleveland. 6 packs of tasty burgers, birch beer and fries were a treat for my brothers and me. Great memories!!
We had one at Five Points across from Collinwood High School. It was the best!
I remember in the late 50’s taking a boat down from 12th & Okeechobee Road to the Royal Castle at 2nd & Palm right on the canal to get a gallon of Birch Beer, they even had a little patch of quicksand there for easy nautical access.
Loved Royal Castle my brother and I ate there 5 days a week Mom worked so we would walk there for lunch on school days. Was some great times. Still miss the birch bear
I know the Singer family still has the Royal Castle Bitch Beer recipe, we need it!
One of my fondest memories was the 1 or 2 times a year my Grandfather would visit (Miami Springs),he’d always bring a bag of about 15 and a gallon of birch beer. Never realized it only cost about $2 !
Those were the days!
I worked at the Royal Castle in Davie, in 1969, as a highschool junior. Thanks for bringing back all those old memories.
And that’s why this page exists.
Royal do do do do do do do do
Castle do do do do do do do do
Royal Castle is just the very best
Lets go to Royal Castle
Does anyone have the audio of that jingle?
I worked in Royal Castle back in the mid 60’s at 16700 n.w. 27 ave. Opa-Locka
I think women not being able to work inside a royal castle restaurant isn’t ant less ugly as blacks not allowed in as you stated it
I have a royal castle 10k w/a ruby crown pin . a grandfather like figure gave it to me back in the late sixties in Miami. Any clue when this was handed out to employees?
I was going to Sonar school in Key West, Forida from September of 1968 to February of 1969 and the very first place I ate offbase was a Royal Castle. It was the very first time I encountered “Castle” style sliders and I enjoyed them immensely. Being from California I never got to enjoy them again but I remember them fondly.
Does anyone remember the Royal Castle jingle?
Do you know the name of the manufacterer of Royal Castle Birch Beer and wehther ther are still in business?
The Royal Castle Birch Beer recipe was a family secret. I would assume that someone from the Singer family still has the recipe.
Mr. Singer was far ahead of his time in many ways. He established a scholarship program for the children of Royal Castle employees and paid the college tuition for the children of employees who otherwise would have struggled to attend college. He asked for nothing in return.
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I’m afraid I’ve got some bad news for you…
I was a CPA working for Price Waterhouse in the 70’s and I participated in the liquidation of the company. Details escape me now, but as I recall, one of the reasons for liquidating was that Royal Castle owned a great deal of real estate. This was the subject of the work I was doing accounting for the real estate sales. In many cases when you saw an “RC Steakhouse” as we sometimes called them on a street corner with a Food Fair or other larger establishment behind it, the owner of a large part of that block was Royal Castle and the tenant was paying rent to RC. Singer liked to invest in real estate. This made the value of Royal Castle assets much more than the stock value on the market. Royal Castle was still profitable in spite of its image. In fact, the bakery at Royal Castle baked sold hamburger buns to Burger King and others in those years. I recall having lunch with Kleber Dunklin a few times.
Did you ever keep anything from Royal Castle?
Very interesting to see what the old Royal Castle buildings turned into. I like Ernestos and had noticed the Royal Castle sign before.
I’m pretty sure there are more of them out there.
Thanks for sharing! Before I moved to AL, I lived about 2 mins. from the last remaining location.
And you never invited me for at least a cup of coffee?
Great Old Miami place. I spot their iconic buildings all over town. Open 24/7, even during Hurricanes !!!