The History of Fast Food

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Fast food is a name for food that is made and presented to costumers in short time. It is usually made with preheated or precooked ingredients, prepared in bulk and sold in packages for take-away. As a term, “fast food” appeared for the first time in Merriam–Webster dictionary in 1951 but its roots are much, much older.

Fast Food History

Fast food is a necessity of civilization since we have civilizations. From the ancient to modern times street vendors sold food ready to eat for those with less money and on hard times. Today we have restaurants that do the same. Here you can read more about fast food history.

Fast Food Facts

Do you know who made the largest hamburger in the world? Do you know when the last strike of fast food workers was? Do you know how many restaurants McDonald’s has? Do you know what animals do when they are held in very small cages? Find out here many interesting fast food facts.

Fast Food Types

Different restaurant franchises can make the same fast food differently. Restaurants of the same franchise can have different food types depending on their location. Meet the wide palette of fast food and fast food restaurants here.

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Brief History of Fast Food

First place that had ready-cooked food for sale was Ancient Rome. Urban population that lived in multi-story apartment blocks called insulae didn’t have kitchens in them and had to buy their food from food vendors. They bought bread soaked with wine and ate stews and cooked vegetables in so-called popinae which were simple restaurants.

A Han Dynasty text dating from the 2nd century tells about noodle stands that stayed open all night. Bigger towns of Middle Ages had street vendors that sold pies, pasties, flans, waffles, wafers, pancakes and cooked meats. All these people and places sold their food to those that couldn’t cook their own food like poor and travelers. Those places that were near the coast and were involved in fishing developed fast food that included local shellfish or seafood.

British favorite “fish and chips” appeared in 19th century with development of trawler fishing and the first “fish and chips” shop opened in 1860 at Tommyfield Market in Oldham. Max Sielaff in Berlin invented “automats”, vending machine restaurants, in 1896. In 1902, Joseph Horn and James Hardart opened an automat in New York City which marks the beginning of the fast food in United States.

The first hamburger chain in the States was White Castle opened in 1921. It was opened by Billy Ingram and Walter Anderson who started with the first White Castle restaurant in Wichita in 1916. They had a small menu which had cheap hamburgers and they sold it in large numbers. The first franchises appeared also in 1921 (A&W Root Beer franchised their syrup) and the first restaurant franchise appeared in 1930s by Howard Johnson.

When the automobiles became more popular, drive-in restaurants started appearing around United States. Costumers in cars were served by carhops who in 1940s started wearing roller skates. The first McDonald’s with fast food was opened by McDonald brothers in 1948 (They had a restaurant before but it was not of a “fast-food-type”). Soon after them, others started opening their fast food chains: Burger King and Taco Bell opened theirs in the 1950s while Wendy's started in 1969. Carl's Jr., KFC and Jack in the Box existed before in other forms, just like McDonald’s, but as the fast food started becoming popular they reoriented.

Hamburgers are not the only type of fast food sold in the world. Chinese food is also popular as well as fish and chips, sandwiches, pitas, sushi, fried chicken, French fries, onion rings, chicken nuggets, tacos, pizza, hot dogs, and ice cream. To supply all restaurants with food of the same quality and standards, fast food operations make food from processed ingredients at a central supply facility and then ship it to restaurants where it is prepared.

Fast food industry still grows although there are indications that it is losing its share of the market to fast casual dining restaurants. McDonald’s is, for instance, present in 126 countries on 6 continents and has around 31,000 restaurants worldwide.

Some criticize fast food industry and its influence on humanity. They claim that its food is not healthy if consumed often, that they are cruel to the animals, that they exploit their workers, that they degrade local cultures because they shift taste of people from traditional cuisines, and that fast food habits are related to the increase of overweight and obesity among people.

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