While the name Duncan Hines is presently associated with cake mix, from the Depression to the mid-1950s, the name was most commonly associated with a series of guidebooks pointing travelers to the best restaurants, hotels/motels, and vacation destinations. These books were overwhelmingly popular, outpacing even the venerable Michelin Guide. Prior to Hines, finding good food or safe lodging was a hit-or-miss proposition: restaurants were often unsanitary and the food of poor quality. Hines was trusted by his readers because of his adamant refusal to accept advertising or payment of any kind from the establishments he recommended. Hines developed and nurtured a reputation for unimpeachable fairness and exactingly high standards of quality and cleanliness. Because of the popularity of his guidebooks and on the strength of his reputation, he almost single-handedly transformed the expectations of the restaurant-going public and thus indirectly transformed the hospitality industry in the United States.
In the 1950s, in partnership with North Carolinian Roy Park, Duncan Hines sold the rights to his name to be used on a line of grocery items, including coffee, ice cream, canned vegetables, and of course, cake mix. These products sold extremely well at premium prices, because shoppers associated Hines' name with quality and cleanliness. Not without reason: just as Hines had exacting standards for restaurants and hotels, he had very high standards for any food product bearing his name.