The History of Fast Food

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Updated: Nov 30, 2023
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The History of Fast Food

This essay will trace the history and evolution of the fast-food industry. It will cover the origins of fast food, its expansion and impact on dining habits globally, and the associated health and social implications of this culinary phenomenon. Also at PapersOwl you can find more free essay examples related to Fast Food.

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¨Do you want fries with that?¨ People hear this whenever they get fast food. This new type of food became popular right after WWII. One of the reasons fast food became popular was due to the rapid service. Customers loved how you would get your food so quickly. The McDonald brothers boasted how you could get your food in 20 seconds{Cai}. Another reason fast food became popular was due to the reasonable prices. Customers loved the cheap prices only paying around 15 cents per item.

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Another factor in how fast food became so popular was the quality of the food for such a cheap price. By no means is fast food “quality” but it is quality for such a cheap price. Fast food rose to popularity because of the rapid service, inexpensive cost, and the taste of the food.

McDonald’s played a crucial role in developing the popularity of fast food. Since more highways were built, the McDonald brothers wanted to build a restaurant that had cheap prices and fast service. In 1940, Richard and Maurice McDonald opened “McDonald’s Famous Barbeque.” This restaurant was located in San Bernardino, California. In 1948, the brothers changed the name to “McDonald’s.” The 1948 menu only had nine items. {The brothers prepared orders using an assembly line system Green 7}. Soon, the brothers opened more restaurants and put a pair of golden arches at each restaurant. The golden arches attracted more customers because they golden arches can be seen easily from the highway.

Ray Kroc was born on October 5, 1902. Ray played an important role in the development of Mcdonald’s. In 1939, Ray Kroc started the “Malt- A- Mixer” company.{He sold more than 9,000 Multimixers a year in cities around the country Mattern 10}. In 1954, Mcdonald’s discovered Ray. Ray Kroc sold 8 Multimixers to Mcdonald’s. This surprised Ray so he traveled to Mcdonald’s. Ray saw how many customers were there and he wanted to build more restaurants across the country. He told the brothers he wanted to build thousands of more restaurants but the brothers didn’t want to. The brothers said they did not want the responsibility. Then soon enough, the brothers sold Mcdonald’s to Kroc for $2.7 million. The brothers sold Ray the rights to open McDonald’s Franchises. Ray opened his first Mcdonald’s on April 5, 1955, in Des Plaines, Illinois. On opening day, Ray made just over $366. In Ray’s first year, he made 18 franchises. On January 14, 1984, Ray Kroc passed away. He had a major impact on the start of Mcdonald’s.

When Mcdonald’s started becoming a bigger chain, they started adding more and more foods that the customers would enjoy. In 1967, Jim Delligatti invented the Big Mac. The Hot Apple Pie dessert was added to the menu in 1968. In 1970, the Shamrock Shake was invented. It is only sold in February and March for St. Patrick’s Day. The Egg-McMuffin was added in 1971. This was the first breakfast item on the McDonald’s menu. The full breakfast menu was added in 1976. Mcdonald’s wanted more reasons for parents to bring their kids to their restaurant. So in 1979, Happy Meals were added to the menu. In 1983 Chicken McNuggets were invented. Mcdonald’s added salads to the menu in 1987 so customers would have healthier choices for drive-through food. The dollar menu was added in 2002. McCafe Real Fruit Smoothies were added in 2010. Mcdonald’s has added many ways that have improved the menu.

Mcdonald’s has come a long way since 1948. Here is the history of how Mcdonald’s became an international chain. If the brothers had not sold the chain to Ray Kroc, it would not have become an international chain because the brothers did not want to build more restaurants. After the brothers sold Ray the franchise, he built many restaurants in the United States. In 1967, the first international Mcdonald’s was opened in Canada and Puerto Rico. In 1975, the first drive-thru Mcdonald’s was opened in Sierra Vista, Arizona. In 2011, 119 countries had Mcdonald’s. Different countries have very different types of food on the menu. Switzerland has macaroons and the United Kingdom has fish fingers. In 1948, nobody would have thought Mcdonald’s would have become so big. But now, Mcdonald’s is one of the biggest fast-food chains in the world.

Mcdonald’s was not the only fast-food chain around back then. There were some even before Mcdonald’s. Some people think White Castle was the first fast-food chain. White Castle was founded in 1921 in Wichita, Kansas. White Castle introduced sliders. White Castle built their restaurants so customers could see their food being prepared{Wilson}. White Castle was not exactly like Mcdonald’s, but it was still similar. “White Castle played an important role in the development of fast food.” Even more restaurants like KFC, Carl’s Jr., and Jack In The Box were around before Mcdonald’s. After Mcdonald’s was created, these restaurants adapted to the Speedee Service System. Burger King and Taco Bell opened in the 1950s. Wendy? opened in 1969. Fast food was getting popular in the 1950s.

All fast-food chains have a founder. Carl Karcher founded Carl’s Jr. S. Wilber Hardee founded Hardees. Glen Bell founded Taco Bell, and Dave Thomas founded Wendy’s. Dave Thomas was an orphan and a high school dropout{Chandler 63}. These people played very important roles in the development of fast food.

Dick Portillo created Portillos and he is now one of the most successful people in the world. Dick wanted to create something more unique than Mcdonald’s and Wendy’s. This led him to his success by making something unique. By 1988, there were 16 Chicagoland Portillo locations. The average Portillos has higher sales than the average Mcdonald’s, and Portillos does not serve breakfast. On August 1, 2014, Dick sold the company and he was worth over a billion dollars. {I am a multi-millionaire who sold his first hot dog without ever tasting it or knowing how to steam a bun{Portillo 117}. Just making something more unique led to his success.

Fast food led to many people becoming obese. A man named Sam ate fast food 3 or 4 times a week, which deeply affected his diet. Sam also drank 2 quarts of soda a day. Sam’s eating habits were by no means unusual at his high school{Schlosser 204}. From all the fast food he ate, Sam was almost 300 pounds at age 16. There are almost 50 million Americans that are obese, mainly due to fast food.

Fast food mainly became popular because more restaurants were being built, fast food had fast service, and it was inexpensive. Customers loved these factors, and more and more people bought fast food.

There were many reasons fast food became popular. The 3 main points were the service, taste of the food, and the cost. Fast food has become popular for many things, not just one restaurant. Many things had to happen for fast food to become popular. Fast food is a major part of the food industry and it has an interesting history.

Works Cited

  1. Cai, Henggao. The Rise of Fast Food Industry in the 1950’s AP US History. 5 March 2012.
  2. Chandler, Adam. Drive-Thru Dreams: A Journey Through the Heart of America’s Fast-Food Kingdom. Flatiron Books, 2019.
  3. Green, Sara. McDonald’s. Bellwether Media, 2015.
  4. Mattern, Joanne. Ray Kroc: McDonald’s Restaurants Builder. ABDO Publishing Company, 2011.
  5. Portillo, Dick. Out of The Dog House. Triumph Books, 2018.
  6. Schlosser, Eric, and Charles Wilson. Chew On This: Everything You Don’t Want To Know About Fast Food. Houghton Mifflin, 2006.
  7. Wilson, Tracy, V. How Fast Food Works. The History of Fast Food/HowStuffWorks. Infospace Holdings. 
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The History of Fast Food. (2022, May 03). Retrieved from