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History of Fast Food Essay

Fast food has been a growing phenomenon for since its introduction in 20th century. The changes in American culture pushed the fast food industry into a staggering growth arena and have changed the way consumers purchase and eat forever. “The fast-food industry that now extends throughout the world has its roots in the United States. Fast-food restaurants are often regarded as emblematic of a new global culture, but the industry has indisputably been shaped by its American origins. ” (Leidner 8).

Fast Food has developed from being a convenience to a necessity, widened the financial gap and became an international phenomenon. The first drive-in restaurant, Royce Hailey’s Pig Stand in Dallas, Texas, was opened in 1921, and offered pulled pork BBQ and introduced Texas Toast. As one southern fan of Royce Hailey’s pig stand put it: “Folks went hog wild when the first Pig Stand opened in Dallas in 1921. Agile “car hops” leaped onto running boards of Model-Ts to deliver “curb service” to a generation on the go.

It was the age of the automobile, and Pig Stands multiplied across America faster than you can say “soooo-eeee. It took the Great Depression of the ’30s to slow “The Pig” down. ”(Sowa). Drive-in services were not very popular at this time because automobiles were expensive and few and far between during the Great Depression. Then nearly three decades later the drive-in restaurant enjoyed a degree of success during the 1950’s. Drive-ins celebrated the cultural importance of the automobile and “Drive-in restaurants proved (to be the) most popular, places where carhops served customers directly in their parked automobiles” (Young, and Young 29).

This convenience which enabled people to order their food and eat it in the open air without having to unbuckle their seatbelts changed American fast food forever (Woloson). “Car hops, as they were also called, became familiar congregation centers for teenagers as well” (Woloson). The rise of the fast food restaurant would not have been possible without constant changes in American culture. The 1950’s brought about American lifestyle changes. With the end of the war Americans had saved money and moved to the suburbs.

For the first time in history middle class married women with women with children were entering the work force. “Married women comprised the majority of the growth in the female work force throughout the 1950s, and between 1940 and 1960 there was a 400 percent increase in the number of working mothers; by 1960, women with children under the age of eighteen accounted for nearly one-third of all women workers”(Coontz 161). The working women and the decrease of free time may be a direct contributor to the growth of the fast food industry.

The development of an affordable automobile and the simultaneous governmental support of new road systems physically reinforced this cultural melding, enabling car owners, especially, to go to places they had never been before. There was a boom in the tourist industry in the 1950’s and 1960’s. The “key to the expansion of tourism demand was the rise in disposable incomes in the 1950s and 1960s. ” (Beauregard 225). Travelers, who once went by rail, boat, or horse, were now moving faster by car. Consumers began to value things such as speed and convenience as part of their trips.

Fast food restaurants began making their food faster and faster and “Americans love the convenience of letting someone else do the cooking,” especially when they are vacationing (Bijlefeld, and Zoumbaris 51). As travelers not only did they need affordable and reliable places to stay they needed quick, convenient, and inexpensive eateries. The need for fast, reliable, affordable, and convenient food, along with an increasing acceptance among Americans of more fast pace culture, led to the rise of the fast food industry.

Fast food restaurants sprang up in both urban areas and along the nation’s highways in record numbers after the introduction of the fast food phenomenon known as McDonalds. “The first fast food restaurant (was) opened by the two McDonald brothers in 1937 in Pasadena, California. Their established restaurant had experienced high demand at specific times (for example, workers’ lunchtimes) and they responded with a circumscribed menu (burgers) and were able to serve large numbers at high speed and low price.

The assembly line procedures, with food preparation and serving made into simple repetitive tasks, combined with a specialized division of labor for each stage, have been recognized as constituting the first ‘fast food factory’” (Beardsworth, and Keil 120). This enabled people to get their food faster and set the standards for the future of the fast food industry. As the McDonalds chain grew and other chains started to sprout up people began to accept the new culture of food service. The working-class food held largely in disrepute.

The gaining widespread popularity of fast food made it a staple food in diets of many Americans diets. The most successful of these stands quickly multiplied, taking advantage of the growing popularity of this new “fast” food and applied industrial principles of standardization to its development. McDonald’s is considered the first fast food restaurant and recognized the potential of this relatively fast and simple food. The organization of McDonalds created standardized methods in its production.

The history of White castle dates back to the 1920’s is seen as the first and most influential restaurant chain (“White Castle”). “White Castle is credited for beginning the franchise system that inspired many “(Woloson). White Castle set standards, began standardization of the cooking line, and created the first restaurant which duplicated the original. In retrospect it can be said that White Castle was the start and set high standards for all the other franchise restaurants in the United States. The hamburger fulfilled economic as well as cultural needs for inexpensive food.

Although there was not a food shortage during the great depression food was expensive and affordable food options like the local hamburger stand was a blessing. By the end of 1930, White Castle had sold over 21 million hamburgers and then by the end of 1937, this number had increased to over 40 million (Woloson). Fast food began to make a steady incline towards the end of World War II. “Franchises were not unique to the 1950s; they had been around since the early decades of the twentieth century, patronized by a public increasingly used to and insistent upon the supposed reliability and trustworthiness of branded goods”(Woloson).

White Castle, A & W Root beer, and Howard Johnson’s, were some of the first and most successful restaurant franchises. Although it took the ideals of postwar culture to wholly support the fast-food franchise it laid the foundations for the companies to make billions of dollars. In 1955 Ray A. Kroc, a Chicago Milkshake salesman, discovered the McDonald’s restaurant in California and saw a goldmine. He partnered with the McDonald’s brothers, opening 228 franchises by 1960. Kroc happily bought out the McDonalds’ shares of the company in 1961.

Kroc, an incredible entrepreneur, wanted to make the customers to identify with the restaurant and make it seem homey. “By 1988, McDonald’s had opened its ten thousandth restaurant and today there are over 30,000 McDonald’s restaurants worldwide” (“History of Franchising”). “Kroc’s success lay in his approach not specifically to cooking individual food items, but in conceiving of his franchise operation in its entirety” (Woloson). The methods and success of McDonald’s Franchises have set a tone for the fast food industry.

Although “White Castle was the first restaurant that encouraged carry-out for those customers on the go the restraint developed standard floor plans and architectural designs that could be easily duplicated” and set these standards for others in the industry (Woloson). McDonalds uniform restaurants, kitchens, dining rooms, and methods of standardized cooking techniques set this great restaurant apart and distinguish it from the other fast food restaurants. Ray Kroc had some competition with the introduction of popular fast food restaurants such as Taco Bell, Wendy’s, and Burger King.

One may say ethnic food could be considered a genre for the fast food franchise system, Taco Bell originated in 1962 and was the first ethnic franchise restaurant, paving the way for many more. “Wendy’s, specializing in bigger, better, and more expensive hamburgers and introduced the first drive-thru windows at their restaurants, which were so popular that Burger King and McDonald’s had to follow suit”(Woloson). As an industry fast food will continue to grow, change, and adapt to the needs of the culture around it.

Expanding to international markets the fast food industry offers cultural acceptable products. “Multinational fast-food chains have now become household names, and in terms of sales and units tend to dominate national markets. Indeed, the industry is becoming more internationalized with brands like Burger King being bought by the British multinational Diageo; and McDonald’s has recently bought a stake in Pret a Manger. However, some of the largest brands in this sector are still American-owned, such as McDonald’s, KFC, Pizza Hut, and Wimpy”(Royle and Towers 3).

One great concept is international fast food chains often support the local economy, buying local products, but sticking to the same well known recipes to get desired results. The fast food franchise of the 20th century has set and defined a world-renowned concept of the way people order, eat, and enjoy the food that they purchase. The fast food industry is one of enormous power and economic strength. Fast food restaurants represent America’s cultures and, in many ways, how other cultures strive to be like America.

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