Founded: The first Krystal restaurant opened Oct. 24, 1932, at Seventh and Cherry streets in downtown Chattanooga
Locations: 364 in 11 states in the Southeast
CEO: Fred Exum
Krystal is banking on die-hard fans' creativity with a new marketing push after dumping the Krystal Square Off last year.
The Chattanooga-based fast-food chain on Wednesday unveiled three new customer-created designs for the small square boxes that hold its steamed trademark burgers.
The winners, who like Krystal all hail from south of the Mason-Dixon line, created cheeky designs with a pop art flair.
Rhonda Freshwater, a native of Brookhaven, Miss., got a check for $10,000 for her effort, which showed an anthropomorphic Krystal burger conversing with the box holding it.
"UR HOT," the box says.
"THANX," the burger replies.
Another box designed by Glenn Chandler, of Auburn, Ga., shows a burger-headed Superman facsimile ripping apart his suit and shirt at the lapels to reveal Krystal's trademark.
More than 3,000 entries were submitted as part of the contest, which is part of a bigger plan to let customers showcase their skills on behalf of the 364-store chain.
The winning entries echo the philosophy of Brad Wahl, head of marketing and vice president of the company, who sees the Chattanooga-based franchisor as a Southern underdog with twinkle in its eye.
"This contest has truly showed us how devoted our Krystal Lovers are to the brand," Wahl said.
Krystal enjoyed national fame with its Square Off eating contest, but officials said the company changed its marketing emphasis last year.
Krystal plans to continue the design contest for customers later this year.
Even before the new boxes begin to find their way past drive-through windows and into customers' laps in the fall, Krystal will call upon fans to design the shirts for its store employees, said Tiffany Rosenberger, manager of marketing innovation at the company.
"We're lucky to have an engaged fan base. They love participating," she said.
Krystal also plans to continue its nationwide practical joke on its competitors, unveiling two new commercials to employees featuring characters that are reminiscent of certain other fast-food chains' mascots.
One of the new ads, which shows some cows and a red-headed girl hiding in the storage room at a Krystal restaurant, represents a new milestone for the company - its first new jingle in eight years.
Contact staff writer Ellis Smith at email@example.com or 423-757-6315.