14 Single-Scoops You Didn't Know About Baskin-Robbins

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Even if you've sampled all 31 flavors at Baskin-Robbins, there are probably a few things you don’t know about the franchise.

1. BASKIN AND ROBBINS WERE IN-LAWS.

image of the balloons outside a Baskin Robbins restaurant celebrating its 70th anniversary
Rachel Murray, Getty Images

Irv Robbins grew up working in his dad’s ice cream shop, The Olympic Store. After he got out of the military in 1945, he opened a store of his own—Snowbird Ice Cream store in Glendale, California. When his brother-in-law Burt Baskin got out of the military shortly thereafter, he also decided to try his hand in the ice cream biz, and opened Burton's Ice Cream in Pasadena. They had eight stores between them just eight years later, and decided to combine forces into a single chain.

2. THEY FLIPPED A COIN TO SEE WHOSE NAME WOULD COME FIRST.

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Despite the Burton's Ice Cream and Snowbird Ice Cream merger, the franchise didn't become Baskin-Robbins until 1953. The brothers-in-law flipped a coin to see whose name would come first in the company. It just as easily could have been Robbins-Baskin.

3. THERE ARE WAY MORE THAN 31 FLAVORS.

image of a child looking at the flavors inside an ice cream counter
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It may be famous for its "31 Flavors," which is intended to represent a flavor for every day of the month, but the company has actually featured more than 1000 flavors over the years. Their top sellers, however, remain pretty basic: vanilla, chocolate, mint chocolate chip, pralines and cream, and chocolate chip.

4. AND SPEAKING OF PRALINES AND CREAM …

image of someone scooping from a vat of praline dessert
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The company claims Irv and Irma Robbins invented the now-classic flavor. They had just returned from a New Orleans vacation and were snacking on some souvenir pralines when a light bulb went off. They mixed the nuts in with vanilla ice cream, then added a drizzle of caramel. The flavor was so good that they put it in stores, and it became one of their all-time best-selling flavors. They even ran out at some stores, prompting ice cream-addicted Americans to send petitions to the Baskin-Robbins headquarters. In 1985, the company sued Häagen-Dazs for adding pralines and cream to their lineup.

5. ROBBINS CAME UP WITH A BEATLE-THEMED FLAVOR ON THE SPOT.

image of the Beatles (the musical group, not the insect)
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Just before the Beatles came to the U.S. for their first big tour, a Washington Post reporter called Robbins to ask what special promotion he had cooked up for the occasion. "Nothing," was the real answer, but Robbins quickly improvised, telling the reporter that "Beatle Nut" was on the way. The company scrambled to get the flavor created, made, and delivered in five days.

6. THAT'S NOT THE ONLY SPECIAL-EVENT FLAVOR.

image of President Gerald Ford standing in front of an American flag and pointing toward an audience
AFP/Stringer, Getty Images

Other special-occasion flavors include Baseball Nut, invented when the Dodgers moved to L.A.; 0031 Secret Bonded during the James Bond craze; and Lunar Cheesecake for the 1969 moon landing. For America's bicentennial in 1976, the company produced Valley Forge Fudge for President Ford to enjoy.

7. NOT ALL FLAVORS MAKE IT TO CONSUMERS.

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Among the flavors that were tested but never mass-produced: Ketchup, Grape Britain, and Lox and Bagels.

8. IRV ROBBINS WAS REALLY INTO ICE CREAM.

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Not only did he have an ice cream cone-shaped swimming pool, he also named his boat "32nd Flavor." And it was easy to spot Robbins driving around L.A.—his vanity plates read "31BR." He said people would occasionally spot the plates and stop him to ask for ice cream.

9. ROBBINS ALSO LIKED EATING ICE CREAM.

image of vanilla ice cream sitting on top of a bowl of what could be cereal, but probably isn't
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He liked to "douse" his morning bowl of cereal with banana ice cream and went through a quart every few days. The Robbins house in Rancho Mirage, California, came equipped with a six-flavor ice cream dispenser.

10. SOMETIMES IN-STORE PROMOTIONS AREN'T ALL THEY'RE "QUACKED" UP TO BE.

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Robbins was particularly fond of a refreshing "Cold Duck" ice cream flavor, which tasted similar to cold duck sparkling wine. It had to be scrapped, however, when Japanese stores promoted it by hanging dead ducks from the ceiling. "We almost collapsed," Robbins said.

11. LOTS OF CELEBRITIES HAVE BEEN EMPLOYED BY BASKIN-ROBBINS.

image of a plaque marking Michelle and Barack Obama's first kiss at a Baskin Robbins
Scott Olson, Getty Images

Plenty of people scooped ice cream at BR before they went on to bigger and better things. The illustrious lineup has included Barack Obama, Julia Roberts, Taryn Manning, and Eric Dane. Obama has quite a history with Baskin-Robbins—he and Michelle experienced both their first date and their first kiss at a store in Chicago (which has since been commemorated with a historical marker-esque plaque).

12. HOWARD HUGHES WAS BRIEFLY OBSESSED WITH THE BANANA NUT FLAVOR.

image of Howard Hughes standing next to some other guy
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Howard Hughes, as we know now, was practically the poster child for OCD. So it's not terribly surprising to learn that when he developed a liking for a certain Baskin-Robbins ice cream flavor, he really developed a liking for it. When the billionaire found out Baskin-Robbins had discontinued his favorite flavor, banana nut, he ordered 100 gallons. The ice cream had to be stored down in the kitchens of the Desert Inn (the hotel where he was living)—and it was a real hassle when Hughes decided he preferred French Vanilla just a few months later. "Somewhere at the D.I., they still might have old gallons of unopened banana nut," ex-Desert Inn president Burton Cohen said in 2000.

13. BURT BASKIN DIED OF A HEART ATTACK IN 1967.

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You've probably noticed that all of these stories center around Robbins, not Baskin. That's because Baskin passed away at the age of 54, just six months after selling the company to United Fruit Co. for $12 million.

14. IRV'S SON JOHN WALKED AWAY FROM THE BASKIN-ROBBINS EMPIRE.

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Not only did Irv's son refuse to be groomed for the position of Baskin-Robbins heir, he actively lobbies against the dairy industry. "My father told me he believed that I was very intelligent, very sincere, and very crazy," John Robbins has said. Once, when his father sought out medical help for health problems like diabetes and heart disease later in his life, his doctors unwittingly handed him a copy of Diet for a New America—a book on healthy eating written by John.

A version of this list first ran in 2016.

14 Secrets of Food Sample Demonstrators

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Tim Boyle, Getty Images

Ever turn a corner in your local grocery store or warehouse club and see the aisle backed up? You might be able to blame a food sample demonstrator, those stationary sales representatives who invite congestion in stores by offering up free bites of food products in an effort to raise sales. (The strategy works—one study found that samples can increase sales by as much as 2000 percent.)

The task might look easy, but it isn’t. Sample demonstrators have to endure annoyed customers who can’t navigate aisles due to the traffic, unattended kids, and more—all while adhering to food safety regulations. To get a better perspective on the job, Mental Floss spoke with two former demonstrators. Here’s what we found out about life in the apron.

1. THEY’RE USUALLY NOT EMPLOYED BY THE STORE.

Food demonstrators are often mistaken for store employees, but they're usually not. The people working behind sample trays at Costco, for example, are often employed by Club Demonstration Services (CDS), a separate entity that hires sample representatives to present products endorsed by Costco and usually backed by the product manufacturer. (Companies can send their own reps out, too.) “CDS might have an office set up in the back of the store,” says Jim, a former food sample demonstrator for Costco locations in California. “We’d sign in, go through the warehouse, and get a quick brief on the product we were demonstrating.”

Though CDS is owned by Costco, CDS employees aren’t technically store employees, and don’t migrate to other work areas. But because customers figure the demonstrators work for the warehouse, they’re often asked for directions. “People just assume you know where stuff is,” Jim says. “I usually told them to find someone in a red vest.”

2. THEY CAN SPEND HALF THEIR SHIFT PREPPING.

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It may seem like a sample demonstrator is burning calories at the rate of a Queen's Guard, but they're usually very busy during the course of a six- or eight-hour shift. Food prep—including mixing ingredients for things like chicken salad or cooking steak strips—can take up as much as half of their time. It’s worth it, as cooked food has a huge advantage over ready-to-eat samples like chips. “There’s a kind of anticipation you build up when cooking something like steak,” Jim says. “It could take a few minutes or 45 minutes, and people are standing there asking when it will be ready.”

3. THEY NEED TO STAY WITHIN A 12-FOOT RADIUS OF THE CART.

Food sample demonstrators may sometimes work in a massive warehouse, but they don’t have the run of the property. Once they’ve settled into their work area—typically near where the product they’re demonstrating is stocked or wherever there’s free space in the building—they’re expected to never be more than 12 feet away from the cart. “The 12-foot radius has to do with the fact that you’re responsible for maintaining your station and keeping customers safe,” says Skyler, a former demonstrator for Costco. “If a kid sees an unattended station with a hot grill running and grabs a sample off of it and burns themselves, it’s a liability.” Demonstrators also need to make sure no one is grabbing a sample and then putting it back, which would be a gross (literally) violation of food handling safety. Once you touch it, it goes either in your mouth or in the garbage.

4. THEY FOLLOW AN ACRONYM FOR SALES SUCCESS.

Vice-president Joe Biden greets food sample servers at a Costco
Saul Loeb, AFP/Getty Images

Food sample pushers don’t work on commission, but they can get bonuses if they sell through their inventory, so it benefits them to make sure people are consuming what they’re offering. One method for enticing customers is what Jim describes as a corporate acronym called SITGA. “It stands for Smile, Invite, Talk, Give Sample, and Ask,” he says. Demonstrators are also free to come up with their own strategy. “I liked to rhyme, like ‘come on by, give it a try,’ that sort of thing.”

5. THEY HAVE TRICKS FOR STAVING OFF BOREDOM.

Speaking with the Yes and Yes blog, Sam's Club food demo specialist Jan said that the hours spent sporadically interacting with customers can require demonstrators to make up their own fun. "I deal with the boredom in several ways. I practice standing on one foot and count the seconds before I lose my balance ... I count and rearrange samples. I reorganize the equipment under my cart. I alphabetize equipment. I grab items off the shelves and read the ingredient and nutrition labels, read slogans on T-shirts, or I try to engage customers in conversation."

6. THEY GET TIRED OF HEARING THE SAME RESPONSES.

A man in an apron looks tired
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Sometimes it's hard to tell what's worse—going for long stretches without customers, or hearing the canned answers they love to give over and over (and over) again. "Customers make stock remarks about certain foods," Jan said. "If you serve sausage, they ask, 'Where are the pancakes?' If you serve a cold drink, they say it would be better with vodka. Coffee samples inevitably get, 'Now I need a donut.'"

7. THEY HAVE TO DEAL WITH “SAMPLE NINJAS” ...

There’s usually no cap on the number of samples a customer can grab from a cart. Still, people can feel a degree of embarrassment going back for seconds—or thirds—and sometimes try to sneak a taste without being seen. Skyler calls these people “sample ninjas” for their attempts to go undetected. “People love free food,” he says. “They don’t want to be seen as freeloaders, they don’t want to hear a sales pitch, they just want snacks.”

8. ... BUT THAT SHAME CAN WORK IN THE STORE’S FAVOR.

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When people are so addicted to a food sample they keep going back for more, they might opt to just buy the product rather than risk being perceived as a greedy shopper. “There have been cases where I’ve been shopping at Costco myself and went and bought something because my overwhelming shame kept me from grabbing a fifth sample,” Skyler says. “The system works.”

9. THEY HAVE A HEIGHT POLICY.

Kids represent a dilemma for demonstrators. If they’re unaccompanied by a parent, it can be potentially problematic to offer up a baked good or other food that could contain an allergen. Fortunately, most kids are aware of their food sensitivities. According to Jim, the unofficial rule of thumb is to give out samples to unattended children if they’re tall enough to see what’s on the cart. “We can’t really determine the age of a kid just by looking,” he says. “They just need to be tall enough to see the sample and discern what it is.”

10. THEY HAVE REGULARS.

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Many Costco demonstrators stick to one store or district, making them a familiar face for people who shop there frequently. “There were definitely regulars,” Skyler says. “I would see old teachers from school, old friends, new friends, and regulars who would know my sales pitch and always play along—for more free samples, obviously.” Others were memorable for other reasons. “I was making cookies once and a woman grabbed the raw cookie dough and yelled at me because it was not cooked.”

11. THEY DEMO NON-EDIBLE PRODUCTS, TOO.

While Jim estimates that 90 percent of his time was spent demonstrating food, CDS also handles accounts for a variety of indigestible products, like Ziploc bags. “I’ve done dish soap and laundry soap, which is hard to demonstrate on the floor,” he says. “You have to give someone a sample and hope they try it and then come back.” Another time, Costco charged him with selling prefabricated outdoor tool sheds. “No one is buying a $3000 shed on the spot. They take a flyer. We didn’t get a sale the entire week.”

12. THEY HAVE A PLAN TO MAKE SURE NO FOOD GOES TO WASTE.

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Toward the end of their shift, demonstrators start to estimate how many more samples they’ll need to meet remaining demand without setting out food that will wind up going to waste. “I do what I can not to waste anything,” Jim says. “We’ll usually make sure we’re done cooking by a certain time so nothing is left over.” Sealed food might go to a food pantry, depending on store policies, but prepared and unused food goes into the garbage. And no, it's not going to the demonstrators: They’re prohibited from taking the excess home.

13. NOT EVERYTHING THEY MAKE IS APPETIZING TO THEM.

Sample demonstrators are usually expected to taste their supply so they can make informed comments when a customer presses for details. While most everything is intended to be delicious, it may not necessarily be the demonstrator's own personal preference. "[I served] horrifying steak chimichangas, microwaved," Jan told Yes and Yes. "When cut into bite sized pieces, [they] squirt out a nasty brown liquid. Worse yet, lots of people liked them."

14. THEY APPRECIATE A LITTLE CUSTOMER ETIQUETTE.

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While free food can cause some of us to abandon civility and manners, food sample demonstrators always appreciate when customers acknowledge they have a job to do—and it’s not to hand out free stuff. Listening to their sales pitch is the polite thing to do in exchange for the eats. “Just try to remember that it’s a sales job and that final sale number is being held over the sample demonstrators’ heads,” Skyler says. “They’re not just someone being paid to hand out food to boost customer morale.”

What Did Elvis Presley's Famous Peanut Butter-Bacon-Banana Sandwich Taste Like? Try It for Yourself

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Elvis Presley was not what you would call a healthy eater. He reportedly loved bacon-wrapped meatballs, burgers, chicken-fried steak, fried pickles, pound cake, and of course, his signature PBBB sandwich, which took peanut butter, bacon, and banana and smashed them between two slices of white bread.

In honor of The King's favorite food, The Takeout decided to try the PBBB out for themselves. Although some may recoil at this artery-clogging concoction, the food news site gave the sandwich a big thumbs up, citing its balance of sweet and salty flavors and smooth and crunchy textures as major selling points.

According to Salon, Elvis's longtime cook, Pauline Nicholson, may have been the first person to serve Elvis a peanut butter and banana sandwich (but no word on when bacon was thrown into the mix).

The recipe is pretty straightforward, but it eliminates the sticky situation of having to put butter on one side of the bread and peanut butter on the other. Instead of butter, bacon grease is used to toast the bread.

For the ingredients, you'll need two slices of white bread, four strips of bacon, two tablespoons of peanut butter, and one sliced banana. First, fry up the bacon in a pan; while you're doing that, spread peanut butter on one side of each piece of bread. When the bacon is done, remove it from the pan, but leave the grease.

Next, place the bread (peanut butter side up) into the pan, and place the banana slices and bacon on one piece of bread. When both pieces are toasted to your liking, put the sandwich together, give it one more flip in the pan, and press it down until the peanut butter starts to ooze.

And there you have it: a deliciously, sinfully fattening sandwich. Enjoy responsibly.

[h/t The Takeout]

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