History of Petro’s

1982 – 19841982 World's Fair Logo

The Petro® made its debut at the 1982 World’s Fair in Knoxville, Tennessee. Originally served in a sliced open Fritos® bag and piled high with chili and mounds of toppings, it was an instant hit with fair-goers. To tie in with the energy theme of the World’s Fair, the Petro® was initially dubbed a “Petroleum Belly,” then shortened to “Petro®” and used other energy related terms like Regular Petro®, Premium Petro®, Unleaded Petro® (which was a bag of Fritos corn chips) and Additives like hot and mild sauces.

Two years later, Petro’s were served in New Orleans at the 1984 World Expo. Again, it wasn’t long before attendees stood in long lines awaiting their introduction to the Petro®.

1985Petro's Hint-of-Orange Iced Tea

Brothers Dale, Keith and Randy Widmer took the World’s Fair food sensation originally created by Spokanites Joe and Carol Schoentrup, developed a concept around it and opened the first permanent Petro’s on Friday, September 13, 1985 in Knoxville’s West Town Mall. At this time, Petro’s introduced what has become a fan favorite, their Hint-of-Orange® Iced Tea. The perfect compliment to the Petro®, folks flock to Petro’s as much for the signature award-winning Hint-of-Orange® Iced Teas as they do the unique Petro.


With Petro’s expansion outside of its city of origin, the paper cup “barrel” replaced the Frito® bag in order to make the eating experience easier. With the addition of a third size, all appetite sizes were satisfied. During this time the menu was expanded to include giant baked potatoes, black angus all-beef hot dogs and nachos.


Over the years, additional mall locations were opened and in 1997, Petro’s opened its first drive-thru with limited inside dining along Kingston Pike in Knoxville. Petro’s catering continued to grow as fans discovered the uniqueness and popularity of serving made-to-order Petro’s at their events.

2001-2009Neyland Stadium Petro's

In a partnership with the University of Tennessee Athletics, Petro’s became the first outside branded food concept in both Thompson-Boling Arena and Neyland Stadium. Petro’s opened on other campuses throughout the Southeast in stadiums, arenas and food courts, which allowed students and sports fans the opportunity to enjoy Petro’s.

2011Petro's Food Truck

Petro’s hit the road with its first Food Truck, which made the rounds weekly to businesses through the area as well as fairs and events.


The Petro broadened its taste-bud appeal with the introduction of four Gourmet Petro’s—Buffalo Chicken, Baja, Cheesy Queso and the BarBQ Chicken Petro. Pulled pork entered the mix with the addition of the BBQ Pulled Pork Nachos, Baked Potato and Gourmet Petro.

2014-PresentTates Creek Petro's

For more than 35 years, Petro’s has been a Tennessee-born and Tennessee-committed brand. Venturing outside of Tennessee in 2017 to the Dallas-Ft. Worth area has proven Petro’s has legs beyond the Volunteer State. In 2020, North Carolina will get its first taste of Petro’s when the first store in Southern Pines opens…Petro-fying the USA one delicious bite at a time!