Fast food

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Fast food is the term generally used to describe low-priced, ready-cooked hot food sold in restaurants and diners or from street stalls, and often designed to be eaten with the fingers, rather than with cutlery. Globally-popular types of fast food (originating in the United States include chicken wings and fried chicken, originating in Germany include hamburgers, hot dogs, and bratwursts, and originating in Italy includes pizza and breadsticks. In Britain, fish and chips is popular, while in Belgium, fries and mayonnaise make a popular snack. While much fast food is sold by small vendors, some providers have become major international corporations: McDonald's and Burger King are among the most famous examples. Most, but not all, fast food chains are franchises.

Teenagers and college students are big consumers of unhealthy fast food, despite being more expensive than eating at home. The average college student eats eight orders of French fries each week.[1]


Fast food restaurants are generally divided between formula restaurants (sometimes referred to as "chains") and independent restaurants, generally serving ethnic foods. "Formula restaurants" describe restaurants that have standardized services, décor, methods of operation, and other features that make them virtually identical to businesses elsewhere.[2] "Formula restaurants" are not limited to fast food restaurants, and not all fast food restaurants are formula restaurants.

Independent fast food restaurants are frequently ethnic (e.g., Chinese take-out, kabob grilles, Korean), but there are a number of others, including pizza (could be considered ethnic), regional (e.g., steak sandwiches and barbecue), and sandwich shops.

There is a tendency to use disposable tableware in formula fast food restaurants and most independent fast food restaurants, in part because of the business model of some large chains.


Formula restaurants, including formula fast food restaurants, have the advantage of simplified configuration individual outlets or franchise holders

Formula fast food restaurants provide the customer with a consistent product at different locations.

Formula restaurants replace independent fast food restaurants and deplete the local character of small towns.

Criticism has included a monolithic style of formula fast food restaurants, although for the most part this is an aspect of individual choice. Some criticism has addressed nutrition issues, although competitive pressure has allowed the free market to address these issues.

A small but significant number of municipalities have imposed zoning restrictions that limit or in some cases exclude formula restaurants from their jurisdictions.[2][3]

There is a tendency to use disposable tableware, which was mostly encouraged by large chains, allegedly to compete with "mom and pop" businesses[4], because the business model of "mom and pop" businesses is better adapted to busing dishes and dishwashing.

Fast food restaurants (national chains)


  2. 2.0 2.1 Formula Business Restrictions, Institute for Local Self-Reliance
  3. Analysis of Cities with Formula Business Ordinances, Malibu (.pdf)
  4. (article on busing disposable tableware)