What is fast food? The fast food, the favourite meal of all of us, from child to adult, the taste we cannot refuse even though, always trying to stay away from it, is one of the most demanding products of our time. “Fast food” is a common name for dishes prepared in a short time and offered to customers. Usually, it is made of pre-fried or efficiently cooked goods. It is sold in packages to make it easy to eat on the street or take home. As a term, fast food firstly appeared in the Merriam-Webster dictionary in 1951; however, its roots are much older.
History of fast food
The history of fast food is older than we thought, but how did “fast food” come about?
The first place where ready-cooked food was sold was Ancient Rome. Although there was living in the multistoried buildings called “Insulae,” there was no kitchen inside, and Romans had to purchase their food from the food vendors. Romans, who eat their meal with the bread soaked in wine, used to eat traditional meals cooked with vegetables at restaurants called Popina.
One of the second-century manuscripts has provided information on small markets that were open all night and sold noodles. History books inform us about the vendors selling cake, waffles, and cooked meat in the larger settlements of the Middle Ages. These people and places were selling their meals to the poor and the travellers who could not cook their food. Thus, those who could not afford it were fed up, and sellers earned it. It led to the formation and development of the primary fast food notion. Residents of the settlements and villages near the coast used to cut the seafood into small pieces and cook and sold them in different papers.
The hamburger that everyone thinks of while talking about the fast-food has been originated in medieval Europe. Although everyone seems to believe that the origin of fast food is in the USA, they are mistaken. London studies in 1598 and articles referring to the history of England in the 1840s and 1850s mention fast food.
History of fast food restaurants
So how does the USA come to mind while talking about fast food? Quite simply. Let's continue with the history of fast food restaurants. Fast food restaurants established in the United States in the 1950s have grown so large that they have become the chains of restaurants with thousands of branches earning millions of dollars. The population and state have owned these brands as these restaurants began to spread in the United States, which is very large in size and capacity. Therefore, the whole world has assumed that the US is the founder of this term and products. This is why the USA comes to mind when we are talking about the history of fast food.
Fish and chips, the British favourite fast food, came about with the development of fishing in the 19th century. The first fish and chips shop opened in 1860 at the Tommyfield Market in Oldham. Max Sielaff in Berlin invented “vending machines” in 1896. These vending machines were designed to sell ready-made foods without human touch. In 1902, Joseph Horn and James Hardart opened a new vending machine in the United States, or more precisely in New York, that laid the foundations for a history of fast food.
What was the first fast food restaurant?
The first hamburger chain in the United States is the White Castle Restaurant, which opened in 1921. The restaurant was opened in 1916 by Billy Ingram and Walter Anderson in Wichita. The sales figures for the restaurant with cheap hamburgers and a small menu were quite high. The first branch office was established in 1921, and the first restaurant with its branch was established in the 1930s by Howard Johnson.
Drive-in restaurants began to appear in the United States when cars became more popular. These restaurants, visually reminiscent of petrol stations, pack the ordered product and offer it to the customer waiting in the car. This type of service, which gained popularity in the 1940s, was mainly used by wealthy and privileged people and was considered more appropriate.
When we say “fast food,” we know most think of McDonald's. This chain of the restaurant was established in 1948 by the McDonald brothers, and this was one of the main events in the history of fast food. They had several restaurants, but none were fast-food restaurants. Today, McDonald’s has more than 35,000 restaurants and operates in 126 countries. It is estimated that more than 69 million customers visit McDonald’s restaurants in a day. And the fact that a brand receives more than 69 million customers a day is a huge success.
Shortly after the McDonald brothers, others began to open fast-food chains as well: Burger King and Taco Bell opened their restaurants in the 1950s. Burger King currently has more than 13,000 restaurants in 79 countries. The brand’s product is The Whopper burger. As they say, this burger is a signature of Burger King.
Wendy's chain of fast food restaurants has been in operation since 1969. With the emergence of KFC, the restaurant started to be mentioned along with the McDonalds in the marketplace. Even today, there is only a few meters of distance between McDonald's and KFC in any shopping malls or streets full of restaurants. Nevertheless, we would say that the popularity and enthusiasm of both of them over the years do not stop them from earning; on the contrary, they enhance the competition and increase productivity.
We supposed to talk about fast food, but we have just realized that we mostly talk about burger restaurants. So, let’s switch to pizzas. For example, the Domino’s Pizza chain, accessible everywhere and an architect of tasty pizza. This fast food restaurant, which opened in Michigan in 1960, now has more than 10,000 restaurants in 70 countries with more than 220,000 employees.
Another pizza master is Pizza Hut. Pizza Hut, one of American’s favourite brands, was founded in 1958. Currently, there are over 11,000 restaurants in 95 countries. Most of the chefs of Pizza Hut, with more than 200,000 workers, are professional chefs who have passed the masterclasses in Italy.
While there are indications that the restaurants we have got used to are losing their market share, the fast food industry is still developing.
Effect of fast food
Some criticize the fast food industry and its impact on humanity. It is argued that the frequent use of these foods is detrimental to health, cruel to animals, abuses the labour force, damage the local culture as people are getting far from traditional cuisine, and that they cause overweight and obesity among people.
After all these criticisms, the first question that comes up to mind is whether fast food is harmful. And the only answer is, unfortunately, yes!
The richness of the ingredients and frying them contribute to the high energy value of fast food. It being the case, it leads to overweight and obesity. There is even a documentary film on this subject. Morgan Spurlock, a documentary filmmaker, eats three times at fast food restaurants during a month. Morgan Spurlock, who had a close brush with death, has been recording these and filmed a documentary called “Super Size Me.” Thus, this documentary starkly covers the harm and the effect of fast food on human life.