Fast food

Fast food

Fast food is the term given to food that can be prepared and served very quickly. While any meal with low preparation time can be considered to be fast food, typically the term refers to food sold in a restaurant or store with low quality preparation and served to the customer in a packaged form for take-out/take-away. The term "fast food" was recognized in a dictionary by Merriam-Webster in 1951. [ [ Jack In The-Box Inc. Fact Sheet] ]

Outlets may be stands or kiosks, which may provide no shelter or seating, [cite book | title = Fast Food: Roadside Restaurants in the Automobile Age | first = John | last = Jakle | publisher = Johns Hopkins University Press | year = 1999 | id = ISBN 080186920X ; cite book | title = Texts Under Negotiation: The Bible and Postmodern Imagination | first = Walter | last = Brueggemann | publisher = Fortress Press | year = 1993 | id = ISBN 0800627369 ] or fast food restaurants (also known as "quick service restaurants"). Franchise operations which are part of restaurant chains have standardized foodstuffs shipped to each restaurant from central locations. [cite book | title = Fast Food, Fast Track: Immigrants, Big Business, and the American Dream | first = Jennifer | last = Talwar | publisher = Westview Press | year = 2003 | id = ISBN 0813341558 ]

The capital requirements involved in opening up a fast food restaurant are relatively low. Smaller, individually-owned fast food restaurants are becoming much more common throughout the world. Restaurants with much higher sit-in ratios, where customers tend to sit and have their orders brought to them in a seemingly more upscale atmosphere, are known as fast casual restaurants.


Although fast food restaurants are often viewed as a representation of modern technology, the concept of "ready-cooked food to go" is as old as cities themselves; unique variations are historical in various cultures. Ancient Roman cities had bread-and-olive stands, East Asian cultures feature noodle shops. Flatbread and falafel are ubiquitous in the Middle East. Popular Indian "fast" food delicacies include Vada pav, Papri chaat, Bhelpuri, Panipuri and Dahi vada. In the French-speaking nations of West Africa, meanwhile, roadside stands in and around the larger cities continue to sell—as they have done for generations—a range of ready-to-eat, char-grilled meat sticks known locally as "brochettes" (not to be confused with the bread snack of the same name found in Europe).

United Kingdom

Fast food has existed in the UK since at least Roman times, although the distinction between fast food items and fast casual restaurants has sometimes been blurred. Prior to the modern era, fast food in the country has included meat pies and pastries as well as fried or battered items.

By the Medieval period it was not peculiar for large cites or major towns to have 'pie shops' or cookhouses. Local pubs and taverns were also providers of 'rapid' if not fast food. As well as these fixed outlets, stalls selling cooked food were quite common. Cornish pasties and their descendants go back at least as far as the 13th centuryCite web|url=|title=The Evolution of the Quick Service Restaurant|accessyear=2008|accessmonthday=February 14|publisher=A Management Consultant @ Large|author=James P Farrell] .

The content of pies varied, with poultry (such as chickens) or wildfowl commonly being used. Post World War II, turkey has been used more frequently in fast food.Cite web|url=|title=How turkey became a fast food|accessyear=2007|accessmonthday=November 23|publisher=BBC|year=2007|author=BBC News]

In areas which had access to coastal or tidal waters, 'fast food' would frequently include local shellfish or seafood, such as oysters or, as in London, eels. Often this seafood would be cooked directly on the quay or close by.Cite web|url=|title=Eel and pie shop|accessyear=2007|accessmonthday=November 23|publisher=BBC|year=2006|author=BBC] The development of trawler fishing in the mid 19th centuryFact|date=March 2008 would lead to the development of a British favorite fish and chips partly due to such activities.Fact|date=November 2007

Owing to differing availability of ingredients and tastes, until the Great War, British fast food had considerable regional variation. Sometimes the regionality of dish became part of the culture of its respective area.

A peculiarly British form of fast food is the sandwich, popularised by John Montagu, the 4th Earl of Sandwich in 1762 when he wrapped dried meat in bread so as not to interrupt his work or his gambling (accounts vary). [cite web|url=|title=History of Sandwiches|accessyear=2008|accessmonthday=June 26|publisher=What's Cooking America|author=Linda Stradley] Cite web|url=|title=The Evolution of the Quick Service Restaurant|accessyear=2008|accessmonthday=February 14|publisher=A Management Consultant @ Large|author=James P Farrell] The sandwich has similarities in other cuisines and cultures such as the filled baguettes popular in France. Despite its wide appeal and consumption in the UK, it is only in recent years that the sandwich in its various forms has been considered to be fast food,Fact|date=November 2007 initially being promoted as such by niche chains such as Subway and Pret a Manger.Fact|date=November 2007

As well as its native forms, the UK has adopted fast food from other cultures, such as pizza (Italian), noodles (Chinese), kebabs were adopted from the Seljuq Turks during the Crusades and various other forms of fast foods come from other parts of the Commonwealth of Nations. and further afield.Cite web|url=|title=United Kingdom Information |accessyear=2007|accessmonthday=November 23|publisher=World InfoZone Ltd|author=World InfoZone Ltd] In some areas imported fast food has become part of both the local, and British culture in general.Fact|date=November 2007 More recently healthier alternatives to conventional fast food have also emerged.

Recently on New Year's Day 2008 a study was conducted worldwide counting the number of fast food restaurants per person. The UK has name claimed this title with Australia second and the United States third. England alone accounted for 25% of all fast food.Fact|date=February 2008

United States

In 1867, Charles Feltman, a German butcher, opened up the first Coney Island hot dog stand in Brooklyn, New York City, though the origin of the term is in dispute. The World's Columbian Exposition (Chicago 1893) and the St. Louis World's Fair of 1904 are credited with mass promotion of a number of portable foods, including the hot dog, the ice cream cone and iced tea.

The "diner" concept dates back to 1872, when Walter Scott of Providence, Rhode Island outfitted a horse-drawn lunch wagon with a simple kitchen so that he could bring hot dinners to workers. Cite web|url=|title=The Evolution of the Quick Service Restaurant|accessyear=2008|accessmonthday=February 14|publisher=A Management Consultant @ Large|author=James P Farrell]

The modern history of fast food restaurants in the United States is often traced to 7 July 1912 with the opening of a fast food restaurant in New York City by Horn & Hardart. Their Automat was a cafeteria featuring prepared foods behind small glass windows and coin-operated slots. This was patterned after a Horn & Hardart Automat that had opened in Philadelphia in 1902. Numerous Automat restaurants were quickly built around the country to deal with the demand. Automats remained extremely popular throughout the 1920s and 1930s. The company also popularized the notion of "take-out" food, with their slogan "Less work for Mother"

As automobiles became popular and affordable following the First World War, drive-in restaurants were introduced. The American company White Castle, founded in 1921 by Billy Ingram and Walter Anderson in Wichita, Kansas in 1921, is generally credited with opening the second fast food outlet and first hamburger chain, selling hamburgers for five cents apiece.Cite web|url=|title=The Hamburger|accessyear=2007|accessmonthday=November 23|publisher=NPR|year=2002|author=National Public Radio] Walter Anderson had built the first White Castle restaurant in Wichita in 1916, introducing the limited menu, high volume, low cost, high speed hamburger restaurant.Cite web|url=|title=The Evolution of the Quick Service Restaurant|accessyear=2008|accessmonthday=February 14|publisher=A Management Consultant @ Large|author=James P Farrell] Among its innovations, the company allowed customers to see the food being prepared. White Castle later added five holes to each beef patty to increase its surface area and speed cooking times. White Castle was successful from its inception and spawned numerous competitors.

Franchising was introduced in 1921 by A&W Root Beer, which franchised its distinctive syrup. Howard Johnson's first franchised the restaurant concept in the mid-1930s, formally standardizing menus, signage and advertising.Cite web|url=|title=The Evolution of the Quick Service Restaurant|accessyear=2008|accessmonthday=February 14|publisher=A Management Consultant @ Large|author=James P Farrell]

Curb service was introduced in the late 1920s and was mobilized in the 1940s when carhops strapped on roller skates. See [ Honk for Service] by Lou Ellen Mcginley with Stephanie Spurr (Tray Days Publishing, 2004)]

McDonald's, the largest fast food chain in the world and the brand most associated with the term "fast food," was founded as a barbecue drive-in in 1940 by Dick and Mac McDonald. After discovering that most of their profits came from hamburgers, the brothers closed their restaurant for three months and reopened it in 1948 as a walk-up stand offering a simple menu of hamburgers, French fries, milkshakes, coffee, and Coca-Cola, served in disposable paper wrapping. As a result, they were able to produce hamburgers and fries constantly, without waiting for customer orders, and could serve them immediately; hamburgers cost 15 cents, about half the price at a typical diner. Their streamlined production method, which they named the "Speedee Service System" was influenced by the production line innovations of Henry Ford. The McDonalds' stand was the milkshake machine company's biggest customer and a milkshake salesman named Ray Kroc traveled to California to discover the secret to their high-volume burger-and-shake operation. Kroc thought he could expand their concept, eventually buying the McDonalds' operation outright in 1961 with the goal of making cheap, ready-to-go hamburgers, french fries and milkshakes a nationwide business. See [ Grinding It Out: The Making of McDonald's] by Ray Kroc with Robert Anderson (St. Martin's Press, 1992)]

Kroc was the mastermind behind the rise of McDonald's as a national chain. The first part of his plan was to promote cleanliness in his restaurants. Kroc often took part at his own Des Plaines, Illinois, outlet by hosing down the garbage cans and scraping gum off the cement. Kroc also added great swaths of glass which enabled the customer to view the food preparation. This was very important to the American public which became quite germ conscious. A clean atmosphere was only part of Kroc's grander plan which separated McDonald's from the rest of the competition and attributed to their great success. Kroc envisioned making his restaurants appeal to families of suburbs. ["Where White Tower (one of the original fast food restaurants) had tied hamburgers to public transportation and the workingman…McDonald's tied hamburgers to the car, children, and the family." (Levinstein, p.228-229)]

On the go

Fast food outlets are "take-away" or "take-out" providers, often with a "drive-through" service which allows customers to order and pick up food from their cars; but most also have a seating area in which customers can eat the food on the premises.People eat there more than five times a week [Arndt] and often, one or more of those five times is at a fast food restaurant.

Nearly from its inception, fast food has been designed to be eaten "on the go", often does not require traditional cutlery, and is eaten as a finger food. Common menu items at fast food outlets include fish and chips, sandwiches, pitas, hamburgers, fried chicken, french fries, chicken nuggets, tacos, pizza, hot dogs, and ice cream, although many fast food restaurants offer "slower" foods like chili, mashed potatoes, and salads.

Filling stations

Many petrol/gas stations have convenience stores which sell pre-packaged sandwiches, doughnuts, and hot food. Many gas stations in the United States also sell frozen foods and have microwaves on the premises in which to prepare them.

Street vendors and concessions

Traditional street food is available around the world, usually from small operators and independent vendors operating from a cart, table, or portable grill. Common examples include Vietnamese noodle vendors, Middle Eastern falafel stands and New York City hot dog carts. Commonly, street vendors provide a colorful and varying range of options designed to quickly captivate passers-by and attract as much attention as possible.

Depending on the locale, multiple street vendors may specialize in specific types of food characteristic of a given cultural or ethnic tradition. In some cultures, it is typical for street vendors to call out prices, sing or chant sales-pitches, play music, or engage in other forms of "street theatrics" in order to engage prospective customers. In some cases, this can garner more attention than the food itself; some vendors represent another form of tourist attraction.


Modern commercial fast food is often highly processed and prepared in an industrial fashion, i.e., on a large scale with standard ingredients and standardised cooking and production methods. It is usually rapidly served in cartons or bags or in a plastic wrapping, in a fashion which minimizes cost. In most fast food operations, menu items are generally made from processed ingredients prepared at a central supply facility and then shipped to individual outlets where they are reheated, cooked (usually by microwave or deep frying) or assembled in a short amount of time. This process ensures a consistent level of product quality, and is key to being able to deliver the order quickly to the customer and eliminate labor and equipment costs in the individual stores.

Because of commercial emphasis on speed, uniformity and low cost, fast food products are often made with ingredients formulated to achieve a certain flavor or consistency and to preserve freshness.


Although fast food often brings to mind traditional American fast food such as hamburgers and fries, there are many other forms of fast food that enjoy widespread popularity in the West.

Chinese takeaways/takeout restaurants are particularly popular. They normally offer a wide variety of Asian food (not always Chinese), which has normally been fried. Most options are some form of noodles, rice, or meat. In some cases, the food is presented as a smörgåsbord, sometimes self service. The customer chooses the size of the container they wish to buy, and then is free to fill it with their choice of food. It is common to combine several options in one container, and some outlets charge by weight rather than by item. Many of these restaurants offer free delivery for purchases over a minimum amount.

Sushi has seen rapidly rising popularity in recent times. A form of fast food created in Japan (where bentō is the Japanese equivalent of fast food), sushi is normally cold sticky rice served with raw fish. The most popular kind in the West is rolls of rice in nori (dried laver), with filling. The filling often includes fish, chicken or cucumber.

Pizza is a common fast food category in the United States, with chains such as Domino's Pizza, Sbarro and Pizza Hut. Menus are more limited and standardized than in traditional pizzerias, and pizza delivery, often with a time commitment, is offered.

Kebab houses are a form of fast food restaurant from the Middle East , especially Turkey and Lebanon. Meat is shaven from a rotisserie, and is served on a warmed flatbread with salad and a choice of sauce and dressing. These doner kebabs are distinct from shish kebabs served on sticks. Kebab shops are also found throughout the world, especially Europe, but they generally are less common in the US.

Fish and chip shops are a form of fast food popular in the United Kingdom, Australia and New Zealand. Fish is battered and then deep fried.

The Dutch have their own types of fast food. A Dutch fast food meal often consists of a portion of French fries (called friet or patat) with a sauce and a meat product. The most common sauce to accompany French fries is mayonnaise, while others can be ketchup or spiced ketchup, peanut sauce or piccalilli. Sometimes the fries are served with combinations of sauces, most famously "speciaal" (special): mayonnaise, with (spiced) ketchup and chopped onions; and "oorlog" (literally "war"): mayonnaise and peanut sauce (sometimes also with ketchup and chopped onions).

The meat product is usually a deep fried snack; this includes the frikandel (a deep fried skinless minced meat sausage), and the kroket (deep fried meat ragout covered in breadcrumbs).


In the United States alone, consumers spent about US$110 billion on fast food in 2000 (which increased from US$6 billion in 1970).cite book | title = Fast Food Nation: The Dark Side of the All-American Meal | first = Eric | last = Schlosser | publisher = Houghton Mifflin Books | year = 2001 | id = ISBN 0395977894 ] The National Restaurant Association forecasts that fast food restaurants in the U.S. will reach US$142 billion in sales in 2006, a 5% increase over 2005. In comparison, the full-service restaurant segment of the food industry is expected to generate $173 billion in sales. Fast food has been losing market share to so-called fast casual dining restaurants, which offer more robust and expensive cuisines.


In 2006, the global fast food market grew by 4.8% and reached a value of 102.4 billion and a volume of 80.3 billion transactions. [ [ Research and Markets] ] In India alone the fast food industry is growing by 40% a year. [ [ Worldwatch Institute] ]

McDonald’s is located in 120 countries and operates 30,000 restaurants around the world. [ [ The Fast Food Factory] ] On January 31, 1990 McDonald’s opened a restaurant in Moscow, and broke opening day records for customers served. The Moscow restaurant is the busiest in the world. The largest McDonald’s in the world is located in Beijing, People's Republic of China.

There are numerous other fast food restaurants located all over the world. Burger King has more than 11,100 restaurants in more than 65 countries. [ [ Burger King] ] KFC is located in 25 countries, 800 of them located in China. [ [ KFC] ] Subway has 29,186 restaurants located in 86 countries, the first international location opened in December of 1984 in Bahrain. [ [ Subway] ] Pizza Hut is located in 26 countries, with 100 locations in China. [ [ Pizza Hut] ] Taco Bell has 278 restaurants located in 12 countries besides the United States. [ [ Taco Bell] ]


Fast food chains have come under fire from consumer groups, such as the Center for Science in the Public Interest, a longtime fast food critic over issues such as caloric content, trans fats and portion sizes.

Some of the concerns have led to the rise of the Slow Food, or Local Food movements. These movements seek to preserve local cuisines and ingredients, and directly oppose laws and habits that favor fast food choices. Proponents of the slow food movement try to educate consumers about what its members considers the richer, more varied and more nourishing tastes of fresh, local ingredients that have been recently harvested.

Health issue

Trans fats which are commonly found in fast food have been shown in many tests to have a negative health effect on the body. A 2006 study [ [ Why fast foods are bad, even in moderation] ] fed monkeys a diet consisting of a similar level of trans fats as what a person who ate fast food regularly would consume. Both diets contained the same overall number of calories. It was found that the monkeys who consumed higher level of trans fat developed more abdominal fat than those fed a diet rich in unsaturated fats. They also developed signs of insulin resistance, which is an early indicator of diabetes. After six years on the diet, the trans fat fed monkeys had gained 7.2% of their body weight, compared to just 1.8% in the unsaturated fat group.

The director of the obesity program for the Children's Hospital Boston, David Ludwig, claims that "fast food consumption has been shown to increase calorie intake, promote weight gain, and elevate risk for diabetes".Warner] The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention ranked obesity as the number one health threat for Americans in 2004.Obesity] It is the second leading cause of preventable death in the United Sates and results in 400,000 deaths each year. About 60 million American adults are classified as being obese with another 127 million being overweight. Health issues associated with obesity causes economic despair regarding health care. According to a 2003 study conducted by RTI International in North Carolina, the cost of health care in America is said to increase by $93 billion a year, mainly from Type 2 diabetes and heart disease, both associated with obesity.

Excessive calories are another issue with fast food. A regular but not overly filling meal at McDonald's of a Big Mac, large fries, and a large Coca-Cola drink amounts to 1430 calories. A diet of approximately 2000 calories is considered a healthy amount of calories for an entire day (which is different depending on several factors such as weight, height, physical activity and gender).

See also

* Dieting
* Food groups
* Fast Food Nation (film)
* Super Size Me
* Western pattern diet
* Chew on This
* List of fast food restaurants



* Adams, Catherine. " [ Reframing the Obesity Debate: McDonald’s Role May Surprise You.] " Journal of Law, Medicine, and Ethics 35 (2007): 154-157. Academic Search Premier. EBSCOhost. University of Nevada, Reno Libraries. 5 February 2008.
* Arndt, Michael. " [ McDonald’s 24/7.] " Business Week 4020 (2007): 64-72. Academic Search Premier. EBSCOhost. University of Nevada, Reno Libraries. 22 February 2008.
* Hogan, David. "Selling 'em by the Sack: White Castle and the Creation of American Food". New York: New York University Press, 1997.
* Kroc, Ray with Robert Anderson. "Grinding It Out: The Making of McDonald's". St. Martin's Press, 1992.
* Levinstein, Harvey. Paradox of Plenty: a Social History of Eating in Modern America. Berkeley: University of California P, 2003. 228-229.
* Luxenberg, Stan. "Roadside Empires: How the Chains Franchised America". New York: Viking, 1985.
* McGinley, Lou Ellen with Stephanie Spurr, "Honk for Service: A Man, A Tray and the Glory Days of the Drive-In". St. Louis: Tray Days Publishing, 2004. For photos of the Parkmoor Restaurants see [ Drive-In Restaurant Photos]
* Obesity In America. The Endocrine Society; The Hormone Foundation. 27 April 2008 [ The Obesity Crisis: What's it all about?]
* Schlosser, Eric, "Fast Food Nation: The Dark Side of the All-American Meal", Houghton Mifflin Company, 2001
* Schultz, Howard with Dori Jones Yang, "Pour Your Heart Into It: How Starbucks Built a Company One Cup at a Time", Hyperion, 1999
* Warner, Melanie " [ Salads or No, Cheap Burgers Revive McDonald’s.] " The New York Times 19 April, 2006. Academic Search Premier. EBSCOhost. University of Nevada, Reno Libraries. 5 February 2008.

External links

* [ The British Library - Fast Food and Snacks Industry Guide (sources of information)]
* [ "QSR" magazine] - publication that covers the fast food industry
* [] Swedish fast food page

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  • fast-food — [ fastfud ] n. m. • 1972; mot angl. amér., de fast « rapide » et food « nourriture » ♦ Anglic. 1 ♦ Restauration rapide, à bon marché. 2 ♦ Établissement offrant ce type de restauration. « elle me poussait dans les fast foods, dans ces mangeoires… …   Encyclopédie Universelle

  • fast food — ou fast food n. m. (Américanisme) d1./d Restaurant où l on peut acheter pour les emporter des aliments préemballés (hamburgers, viennoiserie, salades, frites, etc.). d2./d Restauration proposée par ce type d établissement …   Encyclopédie Universelle

  • Fast Food — Saltar a navegación, búsqueda Fast Food Información personal Origen Europa …   Wikipedia Español

  • fast food — UK US noun [U] ► hot food that is cooked and served very quickly in special restaurants. Fast food is often the type of food you can take away to eat, for example hamburgers or fried chicken: »Dicos is a fast food chain that is becoming… …   Financial and business terms

  • Fast Food — [ fu:d] das; [s], auch Fast|food das; [s] <aus engl. fast food, eigtl. »schnelles Essen«> (in bestimmten Schnellgaststätten angebotene) schnell und leicht verzehrbare kleinere Gerichte …   Das große Fremdwörterbuch

  • fast food — /fastˈfud, ingl. ˈfɑːstˌfuːd/ [loc. ingl., comp. di fast «rapido, veloce» e food «cibo, alimento»] loc. sost. m. inv. CFR. tavola calda, paninoteca …   Sinonimi e Contrari. Terza edizione

  • fast food — {{/stl 13}}{{stl 7}}[wym. fast fud] {{/stl 7}}{{stl 8}}rz. mnż a. n ndm {{/stl 8}}{{stl 7}} jedzenie szybko przyrządzone; także lokal, w którym podaje się takie jedzenie : {{/stl 7}}{{stl 10}}Koło Pałacu Zimowego jest jeden fast food i kilka… …   Langenscheidt Polski wyjaśnień

  • fast food — loc.s.m.inv. ES ingl. {{wmetafile0}} locale appositamente attrezzato per servire pasti rapidi, spec. a base di hamburger e patatine fritte | il pasto servito in tale tipo di locale {{line}} {{/line}} DATA: 1982. ETIMO: comp. di fast veloce e food …   Dizionario italiano

  • fast food — /fa:st fu:d/, it. /fa sfud/ locuz. ingl. [comp. di fast rapido e food cibo ], usata in ital. come s.m. 1. (gastron.) [pasto costituito da piatti di rapida preparazione, consumato in locali organizzati per un servizio e un consumo veloci]. 2.… …   Enciclopedia Italiana

  • fast-food — adj. 2 g. 2 núm. s. f. 1. Diz se de ou comida de confecção e serviço rápidos, geralmente associada a sanduíches e alimentos fritos. • s. m. 2. Estabelecimento de restauração que serve esse tipo de comida.   ‣ Etimologia: palavra inglesa, de fast …   Dicionário da Língua Portuguesa

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