Austrian-born Friedrich Jahn, fast-food, sit-down restaurant king of Europe, reached into his vest pocket and proudly pulled out a Swiss passport.
"I didn't ask for it," he said. "They gave it to me -- citizenship."
Perhaps the U.S. government someday might consider a similar gesture of recognition. Although the story of Friedrich Jahn's astounding success took place largely in post-war West Germany and western Europe, it is one that sounds typically American.
Jahn is disturbed about the future of Europe. What he views as creeping socialism, the surge in terrorism and "600 Russian divisions from Murmansk to Persia" have convinced him to bring part of the old world over to the new.
So for the past two years, Jahn has been bringing to the United States vast investments in the food service and restaurant industry.
"This is the best country and you have everything in your country," said Jahn over breakfast at the Watergate. "And it's going to get better."
Despite his optimistic view of this country, Jahn is concerned about the future. If there is no resurgence of western strength and determination, Jahn feels that Europe -- and his nearly 1,000 Wienerwald restaurants and three score hotels around that continent -- are destined to become Soviet property.
In 1978, with an eye to finding a way to protect at least a portion of his investments, Jahn bought the string of 273 Lums restaurants owned by millionaire businessman and current Kentucky Governor John Y. Brown Jr. The following year Jahn bought a controlling interest in the International House of Pancakes chain, bringing the number of Jahn-owned restaurants to over 1,500 worldwide.
The European began his march towards corporate greatness from modest beginnings. He acquired culinary and management expertise in Austria during a slow climb from catering apprentice to head waiter of a large hotel.
Jahn then purchased a small hotel near Innsbruck but failed in his debut as an owner. After rebuilding his bank account, he moved to West Germany and in 1955 opened a tiny restaurant, the Linzer Stuberl, in Munich.
The restaurant specialized in chicken soup and plain boiled chicken. Sales the first year amounted to only $40,000. Not until the then novel idea of broiling chicken materialized did the venture start to grow. In 1956 Jahn added two similar restaurants in other parts of sourther West Germany and sold $250,000 worth of Wienerwald meals.
By 1960 the chain had 50 outlets -- twice the number it had in 1959. In 1962 the 100th Wienerwald opened and total sales approached $53.3 million. Jahn then branched out, beginning operations in Switzerland.
The 1964 New York World's Fair played host to two Wienerwald restaurants, and by the following year annual sales topped $116 million. At the end of the decade, 300 restaurants owned by Jahn were scattered all over Europe.
In 1972, Jahn served as official caterer at the Munich Olympics. Sales reached $200 million. Tokyo became the site of yet another Wienerwald. Outlets in Africa, Spain and Finland soon followed.
And then Jahn came to the United States.
"You know," he said, "I have nothing against the socialists in Europe. They have a lot of good ideas but they always spend the money they don't have in the bucket. I want to save something for my children, so here I am."
He gives credit for the current high standard of living in Europe to the United States and specifically to the Marshall Plan, initiated after World War II to help rebuild a shattered continent.
"After the war came the Americans to help Europe. It was all bombed and you came with the Marshall Plan, helping with low interest loans, said Jahn. "I think without this help Germany and the others could not have the standards we now enjoy.
"So we have a little money again because we are working good there now and we are bringing a little of that money back.
"I know many Americans are not thinking clearly on this. They're thinking 'Oh, the foreigners, they buy everything and the country is being sold.' But you haven't heard of anyone moving the land to China, have you?
"More important is to bring the money back and look for opportunity. It should not matter if I own the money back and look for opportunity. It should not matter if I own the money as long as I pay my taxes here. Open your eyes and let the money in. Control it, tax it! Isn't it better that I bring it to America instead of spending it elsewhere?"