Everything About Pumper Nic

Many chains of the past have ceased to exist in our present. Pumper Nic, a classic restaurant chain with an Argentinian origin, is one too. It was a popular restaurant of the 1970s and 1980s. It got its name from the word german pumpernickel, which means bread. Many even consider it a cult classic today in Argentina.

While it is tragic that we will never get to taste its delicacies again, we can still remember it and hope it returns someday! 

Here is everything about Pumper Nic.

Origins of Pumper Nic

The origins of Pumper Nic root back to the 1970s. Alfredo Lowenstein opened its first-ever location in 1974. 

As Alfredo owned Quickfood (the parent company of the renowned Argentine beef) and the Las Lenas tourist complex, the success of Pumper Nic was a given. However, it was his brother Ernesto who found the Argentine beef, the famous hamburger supplier Paty. 

In 1975, Pumper Nic became the first franchise in Argentina. It quickly expanded throughout the country, reaching a total of 70 restaurants. Its annual revenue was 60 million dollars.

What is Pumpernickel?

Pumpernickel is a type of bread that is made using a sourdough starter, rye flour, and whole rye grains. This dark, slightly sweet bread originated in the Westphalia area of Germany in the mid-1400s. It is known for its long baking time which gives the bread its characteristic dark color.

The Logo Lawsuit

Picture of the Disposable cup with their new name and logo.

The tales of logo lawsuits in the restaurant chain industry are never new. Its history has one too. 

Its logo had a resemblance with Burger King. However, the company had this logo before Burger King started operating in Argentina. 

When Burger King arrived in Argentina in 1989, Pumper Nic faced a lawsuit. It then had to change its logo, with its name shortened to Pumper.  

Bankruptcy Filing

The restaurant chain was successful in Argentina. However, its rapid growth made it extremely difficult for the headquarters to manage the franchises. Hence, several locations faced a combination of lack of standardization and poor management. The food quality gradually decayed as well between restaurant to restaurant. 

Soon, Lowenstein handed the ownership of Pumper Nic to his sons Diego and Paula in 1990. 

However, both had little interest in running the business. The family sold the chain in 1995. The new locations started from scratch after an association with Wendy’s. It had just opened its first restaurant in the country. 

Furthermore, the franchise system also collapsed the following year in its entirety. The new owners, who were real estate agents, Goldstein and Rosenbaum, were also unable to relaunch the company. They could not compete with the larger American fast-food chains. Customer numbers were declining steadily. Therefore, in early 1999, Pumper Nic finally declared bankruptcy.

Famous Products of Pumper Nic

With an Argentinian origin, Pumper Nic had lots of delicious items on its menu. Their signature meal was the Mobur sandwich. It is one with an egg in between. 

The other famous choice was Dos por Uno: two burgers for the price of one. They called French fries Frenys.

Some other sandwiches which were a personal favorite of the other lots were Jaque (Jamon y queso, ham, and cheese) and Jaque H.

Taglines and References to Pumper Nic

Image of their mascot.

Pumper Nic has been referenced in our movies many times. They also had their tagline!

  • Pumper Nic, the new way of dining — was their most famous tagline. The Spanish version of it is La Nueva Forma de comer.
  • In the Oscar-winning animated short film Logorama, Nic the hippo is one of the animals who escape from the Los Angeles Zoo during an earthquake that strikes Los Angeles (2009).

Interesting Facts

  1. Pumper Nic, the cult Buenos Aires fast food chain was fondly remembered by Argentinian children of the 70s, 80s, and 90s.
  2. Pumper Nic was named after the German rye bread, pumpernickel—a dark, slightly sweet bread that originated in the Westphalia (area of Germany) in the mid-1400s.
  3. Pumper Nic existed before either McDonald’s or Burger King began operating in Argentina (1986 and 1989, respectively). Ernesto Lowenstein, the brother of Pumper Nic founder Alfredo, incented the ubiquitous ‘paty’ hamburger brand.
  4. The company became the first franchise in Argentina. About 70 restaurants have been in operation at their peak.
  5. The streamlined Pumper Nic lettering was designed by revered Argentinian graphic designer and artist Edgardo Giménez who also directed some of their TV commercials.
  6. Their branding also included a green hippo called Nic (some remember him as Hugo).
  7. The original Pumper Nic logo was a rip-off of Burger King’s, which they were forced to change and shorten their name to Pumper following a lawsuit by the latter when they began trading in Argentina.
  8. The company collapsed in 1996 leaving only two restaurants open.
  9. The final Pumper Nic located in Costanera and Salguero operated until 1999 when the company finally folded for good.
  10. Much loved Argentinian band Soda Stereo even chose to present their debut album at the Suipacha branch of Pumper Nic in October 1984
  11. Mention Pumper Nic to any porteño (port city person) and they’ll get a bit dewy-eyed and nostalgic.
  12. “Big Pumper!” was the phrase with which they finished off the commercials on television, some of them starring the well-remembered actor Gianni Lunadei.

Typical Pumper Nic Setting

Going to Pumper Nic was a good concept. The restaurant had no waiter service, and not having to leave a tip was a great benefit for the youngsters who frequented its tables and their tight budgets.

The location, which has come to represent the pop aesthetic of the 1980s, included tables and chairs that were fastened to the floor as well as a massive counter that was the focal point of the setting and had large lit signs that announced the menu (there were no LED displays back then).

The price list for the delectable selection of hamburgers and their add-ons was displayed on the marquee with fluorescent tubes. For example, there was the traditional Pumper or the sandwich known as Mobur, which also included cheese and a perfectly grilled egg that was impossible to replicate at home. The Supernic gathered lettuce, egg, and tomato, but the Double Nic, which featured two hamburgers and onion, was the big star. The Milanese-made chicken medallion was known as Chicknic.

Of course, the menu wouldn’t be complete without the standard Frenys package of fries, which was available in pocket or maxi sizes, to go with the hamburgers. The reality is that soon after they were filled with Frenys, the containers seemed to break apart to become the thickness of a host, which suggests that either the potatoes had too much oil or the envelopes were very thin. The components of this kind of proposition are never exactly plentiful, as is the situation right now.

The majority of the personnel were young. The uniform for the girls and boys included visors and may be made up of a sweater, a short-sleeved T-shirt, or a casual shirt. Pants were worn by both men and women. Additionally, different dresses for different positions could be used to define levels. Instead of taking orders in a box separate from the one used to collect payment and making a giant mozzarella go as at a good Buenos Aires pizzeria, the staff accepted orders here and read out the customer’s requests into a microphone. The voice of the counter staff, along with their trademarked hamburger names, was broadcast over the kitchen speakers in an unending loop.

Pumper Nic’s Marketing Style

Pumper Nic’s stores were strategically placed, had high pedestrian traffic, and were frequently close to theaters. At that time, Lavalle was still a popular destination for moviegoers who were dispersed among the Normandie, Trocadero, Monumental, Iguaz, and Atlas big cinematic palaces. Pumper Nic is waiting for the adults who didn’t skip Saturday Night Fever, the young people who liked Rambo, and the youngsters who just got back from seeing one of the Super Agents.

Some of its storefronts were situated in Florida near Lavalle, in Suipacha a little distance from Corrientes, and on Corrientes on the sidewalk of the Alfil theater in the Center, where the brand started to gain popularity. Pumper and the Bishop are no longer in existence. There was a branch on the Costanera, and there were branches in Belgrano, Flores, and Lugano. The flavors of Pumper Nic were also popular in the nation’s major cities.

There were many unique events going on in Pumper Nic when it was a hip neighborhood, such as the release of Soda Stereo’s debut album, which was presented at the huge Suipacha Street venue. A good number of journalists were waiting to speak with Gustavo Cerati, Zeta Bosio, and Charly Alberti as they stepped through the door. They were three exotic young guys with eyeliner and standing hair.

The Bottomline

Pumper Nic was the first-ever Argentinian franchise of their country. While it did not reach beyond the borders, the restaurant was a famous delight for nationals. Many still consider it a cult classic!

They were famous for their delicious sandwiches. However, the restaurant chain went defunct in 1999. Today, it stands as one of the classic restaurant chains that no longer exist. There are many more restaurant chains that had the same fate. For instance, the All-Star Cafe and Horn & Hardart, if you remember.

The history of such restaurant chains teaches us that even our current classics may not be a thing tomorrow. Therefore, make sure you enjoy the ones around you till you can. If you own a restaurant, do not forget to run it with tips for success.