Fast food restaurant

Fast food restaurant

. McDonald's is the largest fast food restaurant chain in the world. [cite web |title=R&I Top 400 Chain Restaurants 2007|url=|publisher= Restaurants & Institutions |accessdate=2008-02-10 ] ] A fast food restaurant, sometimes known as a quick service restaurant or QSR, is a specific type of restaurant characterized both by its fast food cuisine and by minimal table service. Food served in fast food restaurants typically caters to a "meat-sweet diet" and is offered from a limited menu; is cooked in bulk in advance and kept hot; is finished and packaged to order; and is usually available ready to take away, though seating may be provided. Fast food restaurants are usually part of a restaurant chain or franchise operation, which provisions standardized ingredients and/or partially prepared foods and supplies to each restaurant through controlled supply channels. The term "fast food" was recognized in a dictionary by Merriam-Webster in 1951. [Jack In The-Box Inc. Fact Sheet [] ]

Arguably the first fast food restaurants originated in the United States of America with White Castle in 1916 [cite web |title=The Evolution of the Quick Service Restaurant|url= |publisher= A Management Consultant @ Large |accessdate=2008-02-10 ] . Today, American-founded fast food chains such as McDonald's and Pizza Hut are multinational corporations with outlets across the globe.

Variations on the fast food restaurant concept include fast casual restaurants and catering trucks. Fast casual restaurants have higher sit-in ratios, and customers can sit and have their orders brought to them. Catering trucks often park just outside worksites and are popular with factory workers.


Some trace the modern history of fast-food in America to July 7, 1912 with the opening of a fast food restaurant called the Automat in New York. The Automat was a cafeteria with its prepared foods behind small glass windows and coin-operated slots. Joseph Horn and Frank Hardart had already opened the first Horn & Hardart Automat in Philadelphia in 1902, but their “Automat” at Broadway and 13th Street, in New York City, created a sensation. Numerous Automat restaurants were 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”. The American company White Castle is generally credited with opening the second fast-food outlet in Wichita, Kansas in 1921, selling hamburgers for five cents from its inception and spawned numerous competitors. It is arguable because most historians and Secondary School textbooks state that A&W was the first fast food restaurant, which opened in 1919.(E. Tavares)

The hamburger restaurant concept which is most associated with the term "fast food" was created by two brothers originally from Nashua, New Hampshire. Richard (Dick) and Maurice (Mac) McDonald opened a barbecue drive-in in 1940 in the city of San Bernardino, California. 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, shakes, 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.

By 1954, The McDonald brothers' stand was restaurant equipment manufacturer [ Prince Castle] 's biggest purchaser of milkshake blending machines. Prince Castle salesman Ray Kroc traveled to California to discover why the company had purchased almost a dozen of the units as opposed to the normal one or two found in most restaurants of the time. Enticed by the success of the McDonald's concept, Kroc signed a franchise agreement with the brothers and began opening McDonald's restaurants in Illinois. [cite book |url= |title=Forbes Greatest Business Stories |author=Daniel Gross |publisher=John Wiley & Sons, Inc. |pages=p.178-192 |date=1977-08-07 |accessdate=2008-04-17 |isbn=0471196533 |type=pdf |quote=While most restaurants bought one or two Prince Castle Multimixers,which could mix five shakes at once, the McDonalds had purchased eight. And Kroc was curious to see what kind of operation needed the capacity to churn forty milk shakes at one time. ] By 1961, Kroc had bought out the brothers and created what is now the modern McDonald's Corporation. One of the major parts of his business plan was to promote cleanliness of his restaurants to growing group of Americans that had become aware of food safety issues. As part of his commitment to cleanliness, Kroc often took part in cleaning his own Des Plaines, Illinois outlet by hosing down the garbage cans and scraping gum off the cement. Another concept Kroc added was great swaths of glass which enabled the customer to view the food preparation, a practice still found in chains such as Krispy Kreme. A clean atmosphere was only part of Kroc's grander plan which separated McDonald's from the rest of the competition and attributes to their great success. Kroc envisioned making his restaurants appeal to suburban families. ["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)]

At roughly the same time as Kroc was conceiving what eventually became McDonald's, two Miami, Florida businessmen, James McLamore and David Edgerton, founded a small take-out shop in the northern section of their home city they named Insta Burger King. Inspired by a visit to the same San Bernardino McDonald's restaurant, the came to the same conclusion about the business structure as Kroc. Utilizing the same assembly line concept, but instead of fried burgers, they used an automated broiling unit invented by McLamore. Roughly a year later they dropped the "Insta" from the name and became Burger King.

While fast food restaurants usually have a seating area in which customers can eat the food on the premises, orders are designed to be taken away, and traditional table service is rare. Orders are generally taken and paid for at a wide counter, with the customer waiting by the counter for a tray or container for their food. A "drive-thru" service can allow customers to order and pick up food from their cars.

Nearly from its inception, fast food has been designed to be eaten "on the go" and 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, and ice cream, although many fast-food restaurants offer "slower" foods like chili, mashed potatoes, and salads.


Old commercial fast food is highly processed and prepared on a large scale from bulk ingredients using standardised cooking and production methods and equipment. It is usually rapidly served in cartons or bags or in a plastic wrapping, in a fashion which promotes reduces operating costs by allowing rapid product identification and counting, promoting longer holding time, avoiding transfer of bacteria and facilitating order fulfillment. In most fast food operations, menu items are generally made from processed ingredients prepared at a central supply facilities and then shipped to individual outlets where they are cooked (usually by grill, microwave or deep-frying) or assembled in a short amount of time either in anticipation of upcoming orders (i.e., "to stock") or in response to actual orders (i.e., "to order"). Following standard operating procedures, pre-cooked product is monitored for freshness and disposed of if holding times become excessive. This process ensures a consistent level of product quality, and is key to delivering the order quickly to the customer and avoiding labor and equipment costs in the individual stores.

Because of commercial emphasis on taste, speed, product safety, uniformity and low cost, fast food products are made with ingredients formulated to achieve an identifiable flavor, aroma, texture and "mouth feel" and to preserve freshness and control handling costs during preparation and order fulfillment. This requires a high degree of food engineering. The use of additives, including salt, sugar, flavorings and preservatives and processing techniques may limit the nutritional value of the final product.

Value meals

A "value meal" is a group of menu items offered together at a lower price than they would cost individually. They are common at fast food restaurants. Value meals are a common merchandising tactic to facilitate bundling, up-selling, and price discrimination. Most of the time they can be upgraded to a larger size of fries and drink for a small fee. The perceived creation of a "discount" on individual menu items in exchange for the purchase of a "meal" is also consistent with the Loyalty Marketing school of thought. [,1,853952.story?coll=chi-business-hed Super-sizing, value meals, and customer loyalty] ]


In order to make speedy service possible and to ensure accuracy and security, many fast food restaurants have incorporated Hospitality point of sale systems. This makes it possible for kitchen crew people to view orders place at front counter and drive through in real time. Wireless systems allow orders placed at drive through speakers to be taken by cashiers and cooks. Drive through and walk through configurations will allow orders to be taken at one register and paid at another. Modern point of sale systems can operate on computer networks using a variety of software programs. Sales records can be generated and remote access to computer reports can be given to corporate offices, managers, troubleshooters and other authorized personnel.

Food service chains partner with food equipment manufacturers to design highly specialized restaurant equipment, often incorporating heat sensors, timers and other electronic controls into the design. collaborative design techniques, such as rapid visualization and parametric modeling of restaurant kitchens are now being used to establish equipment specifications that are consistent with restaurant operating and merchandising requirements. [cite web |title=A Lifecycle Approach to Retail Store Development|url= |publisher= A Management Consultant @ Large |accessdate=2008-02-11 ]


Consumer spending

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 restaurants, which offer more robust and expensive cuisines.

Major brands

McDonald's, a noted fast-food supplier, opened its first franchised restaurant in the US in 1955 (1974 in the UK). It has become a phenomenally successful enterprise in terms of financial growth, brand-name recognition, and worldwide expansion. Ray Kroc, who bought the franchising license from the McDonald brothers, pioneered many concepts which emphasized standardization. He introduced uniform products, identical in all respects at each outlet, to increase sales. At the same time, Kroc also insisted on cutting food costs as much as possible, eventually using the McDonald's Corporation's size to force suppliers to conform to this ethos."

Other prominent international fast food companies include Burger King, the number two hamburger chain in the world, known for promoting its customized menu offerings ("Have it Your Way"); Wendy's, the number three burger chain and creator of the Drive thru concept; Dunkin' Donuts, a New England based chain that emphasized and refined the commissary model of food preparation, yet is not officially considered fast food, due to its concentration on breakfast and coffee; Starbucks, Seattle-born coffee-based fast food beverage corporation; KFC, a part of the largest restaurant chain in the world, Yum! Brands; and Dominos Pizza, a pizza chain known for popularizing home delivery of fast food.

Subway restaurants are known for their sub sandwiches and Subway is the largest restaurant chain to serve such food items. The Subway restaurant chain is the fastest growing restaurant chain in the world surpassing even McDonald's. Subway has the second most stores of any chain restaurant system in the world after McDonald's, and the most locations in North America of any chain. Quiznos, a Denver based sub shop is another fast growing sub chain. With over 6,000 locations it is still far behind Subway's 28,000 locations. Other smaller sub shops include Blimpie and Mr. Goodcents, and Firehouse.

Regional chains

Many fast food operations have more local and regional roots, such as White Castle in the Midwest United States, along with Hardee's (owned by CKE Restaurants, which also owns Carl's Jr., whose locations are primarily on the United States West Coast), Krystal, Bojangles', and Zaxby's restaurants in the American Southeast, Raising Cane's in Louisiana, the famous In-N-Out Burger (in California, Arizona, and Nevada) and Tommy's chains in Southern California, Dick's Drive-In in Seattle, Washington, and Arctic Circle in Utah and other western states and Burgerville in the Portland, Oregon area. Also, Whataburger is a popular burger chain in the South and Mexico, and Jack in the Box located in the west and south. Canada pizza chains Topper's Pizza and Pizza Pizza are primarily located in Ontario. Coffee chain Country Style operates only in Ontario, and competes with the famous coffee and donut chain Tim Hortons. Rasta Taco is a chain in Southern California with a focus on Caribbean and Mexican food.

International chains

Multinational corporations typically modify their menus to cater to local tastes and most overseas outlets are owned by native franchisees. McDonald's in India, for example, uses lamb rather than beef in its burgers because Hinduism traditionally forbids eating beef. In Israel some McDonald's restaurants are kosher and respects the Jewish shabbat, there is also a kosher McDonald's in Argentina. In Egypt, Morocco, Saudi Arabia and Singapore all menu items are halal.

In Canada the majority of fast food chains are American owned, or were originally American owned but have since set up a Canadian management/headquarters location in cities such as Toronto and Vancouver. Although the case is usually American fast food chains expanding into Canada, Canadian chains such as Tim Hortons have expanded into 22 states in the United States, but are more prominent in border states such as New York and Michigan.

In the United Kingdom, many home based fast food operations were closed in the 1970s and 1980s after McDonald's became the number one outlet in the marketFact|date=February 2007. However, brands like Wimpy still remain, although the majority of branches became Burger King in 1989.

Traditional ramen and sushi restaurants still dominate fast food culture in Japan, although American outlets like Pizza Hut, McDonald's and KFC are also popular, along with Western-style Japanese chains like Mos Burger.

In Africa, Mr. Bigg's and Tantalizers are the predominant fast food chains in Nigeria, while Nando's and Steers are predominant in South Africa.

In Hong Kong, although McDonald's and KFC are quite popular, there are 3 major local fast food chains providing Hong Kong Chinese style fast food. These 3 major chains are Café de Coral, Fairwood Fast Food and Maxim MX. In recent years, they have been extending their operations to Mainland China also.


Health concerns

Some of the large fast-food chains are beginning to incorporate healthier alternatives in their menu, e.g., white meat, snack wraps, salads and fresh fruit. However, some people see these moves as a tokenistic and commercial measure, rather than an appropriate reaction to ethical concerns about the world ecology and people's health. McDonald's announced that in March of 2006, the chain would include nutritional information on the packaging of all of its products. [ [] Dead link|date=March 2008] .

Consumer appeal

Fast-food outlets have become popular with consumers for several reasons. One is that through economies of scale in purchasing and producing food, these companies can deliver food to consumers at a very low cost. In addition, although some people dislike fast food for its predictability, it can be reassuring to a hungry person in a hurry or far from home. [ [ English Teaching Forum Online – Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs ] ]

In the post-World War II period in the United States, fast food chains like McDonald's rapidly gained a reputation for their cleanliness, fast service and a child-friendly atmosphere where families on the road could grab a quick meal, or seek a break from the routine of home cooking. Prior to the rise of the fast food chain restaurant, people generally had a choice between greasy spoon diners where the quality of the food was often questionable and service lacking, or high-end restaurants that were expensive and impractical for families with children. The modern, stream-lined convenience of the fast food restaurant provided a new alternative and appealed to Americans' instinct for ideas and products associated with progress, technology and innovation. Fast food restaurants rapidly became the eatery "everyone could agree on", with many featuring child-size menu combos, play areas and whimsical branding campaigns, like the iconic Ronald McDonald, designed to appeal to younger customers. Parents could have a few minutes of peace while children played or amused themselves with the toys included in their Happy Meal. There is a long history of fast food advertising campaigns, many of which are directed at children.

In other parts of the world, American and American-style fast food outlets have been popular for their quality, customer service and novelty, even though they are often the targets of popular anger towards American foreign policy or globalization more generally. Many consumers nonetheless see them as symbols of the wealth, progress and well-ordered openness of Western society and therefore become trendy attractions in many cities around the world, particularly among younger people with more varied tastes. Fact|date=February 2007

Innovations timeline

* 1872: Walter Scott of Providence, RI outfitted a horse-drawn lunch wagon with a simple kitchen, bringing hot dinners to workers [cite web |title=A Lifecycle Approach to Retail Store Development|url= |publisher= A Management Consultant @ Large |accessdate=2008-02-10 ]
* 1902: First Horn & Hardart Automat opened in Philadelphia
* 1912: Horn & Hardart become a "chain", opening an Automat in Manhattan
* 1916: Walter Anderson built the first White Castle (restaurant) in Wichita, KS in 1916, introducing the limited menu, high volume, low cost, high speed hamburger restaurant [Ibid.]
* 1919: A & W Root Beer took its product out of the soda fountain and into a roadside stand [Ibid.]
* 1921: A & W Root Beer began franchising its syrup [Ibid.]
* 1930's: Howard Johnson's pioneered the concept of franchising restaurants, formally standardizing menus, signage and advertising [Ibid.]
* 1948: In-N-Out begins drive-through service utilizing call-box technology
* 1967: McDonald's opens its first restaurants outside the U.S.A. []
* 1971: McDonald's begins serving breakfast, test-marketing Egg McMuffin in the U.S. []
* 1971: The first Starbucks store opens in Seattle, Washington in Pike Place Market to sell high-quality coffee beans and equipment
* 1980: 7-Eleven introduces the 32-ounce Big Gulp
* 1981: Arby's offers nutritional information
* 1987: Howard Schultz leads purchase of the Starbucks brand from its founders (who adopted the name Peet's) and begins offering coffee drinks modeled after those sold in Italian coffee bars
* 1994: McDonald's begins "supersizing" Extra Value Meals
* 1994: Arctic Circle becomes the first fast-food restaurant to sell Angus beef exclusively.
* 1994: Arby's is first fast-food restaurant to implement a no-smoking policy
* 2002: McDonald's cuts back on the amount of trans fat by 48 percent on french fries
* 2006: Arby's begins elimination of trans fat oils in french fries


The fast-food industry is a popular target for critics, from would-be populists like José Bové to vegetarian activist groups such as PETA.

In his best-selling 2001 book "Fast Food Nation", investigative journalist Eric Schlosser leveled a broad, socio-economic critique against the fast food industry, documenting how fast food rose from small, family-run businesses (like the McDonald brothers' burger joint) into large, multinational corporate juggernauts whose economies of scale radically transformed agriculture, meat processing and labor markets in the late twentieth century. While the innovations of the fast food industry gave Americans more and cheaper dining options, it has come at the price of destroying the environment, economy and small-town communities of rural America while shielding consumers from the real costs of their convenient meal, both in terms of health and the broader impact of large-scale food production and processing on workers, animals and land.

The fast-food industry is popular in the United States, the source of most of its innovation, and many major international chains are based there. Seen as symbols of US dominance and perceived cultural imperialism, American fast-food franchises have often been the target of Anti-globalization protests and demonstrations against the US government. In 2005, for example, rioters in Karachi, Pakistan, who were initially angered because of the bombing of a Shiite mosque, destroyed a KFC restaurant. [ [ KFC Burned During Riot In Pakistan, Six Killed In Restaurant By Mob Angry Over Mosque Bombing - CBS News ] ]

Legal issues

In 2003, McDonald's was sued in a New York court by a family who claimed that the restaurant chain was responsible for their teenage daughter's obesity and attendant health problems. By manipulating food's taste, sugar and fat content and directing their advertising to children, the suit argued that the company purposely misleads the public about the nutritional value of its product. A judge dismissed the case, but the fast food industry disliked the publicity of its practices, particularly the way it targets children in its advertising. [ [ BBC NEWS | Americas | McDonald's targeted in obesity lawsuit ] ] Although further lawsuits have not materialized, the issue is kept alive by in the media and political circles by those promoting the need for tort reform [ [ The Legal Underground: Fast-Food Update: Where Are the Promised Obesity Lawsuits? ] ] .

In response to this, the "Cheeseburger Bill" [ [ BBC NEWS | Americas | US approves 'Cheeseburger bill' ] ] was passed by the U.S. House of Representatives in 2004; it later stalled in the U.S. Senate. The law was reintroduced in 2005, only to meet the same fate. This law was claimed to " [ban] frivolous lawsuits against producers and sellers of food and non-alcoholic drinks arising from obesity claims." The bill arose because of an increase in lawsuits against fast-food chains by people who claimed that eating their products "made" them obese, disassociating themselves from any of the blame.

See also

* Fast food advertising
* List of fast food restaurants
* Sanitation Standard Operating Procedures
* Toilet hygiene
* Roadhouse (facility)



* Hogan, David. "Selling 'em by the Sack: White Castle and the Creation of American Food". New York: New York University Press, 1997.
* Kroc, Ray and Anderson, Robert "Grinding It Out: The Making of McDonald's". Chicago: Contemporary Books, 1977.
* 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 Restaurant". Tray Days Publishing, 2004
* Schlosser, Eric. "Fast Food Nation: The Dark Side of the All American Meal" HarperCollins Publishers, 2005
* Schultz, Howard and Yang, Dori Jones. "Pour Your Heart Into It: How Starbucks Built a Company One Cup at a Time". Hyperion, 1999.

External links

* [ The British Library - finding information on the fast food industry]
* [ Book defending fast food]

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