Fast food is food which is prepared and served quickly at outlets called fast-food restaurants. It is a multi-billion dollar industry which continues to grow rapidly in many countries.
Fast-food outlets are take-away or take-out providers, often with a "drive-thru" service which allows customers to order and pick up food from their cars; but most also have a seating area in which customers can eat the food on the premises.
Nearly from its inception, fast food has been designed to be eaten "on the go" and often does not require traditional dominant cutlery. Common menu items at fast food outlets include fish and chips, sandwiches, pitas, hamburgers, fried chicken, french fries, chicken nuggets, tacos, pizza, and ice cream, although many fast-food restaurants offer "slower" foods like chili, mashed potatoes, and salads. However, even though Western-style Chinese cuisine is most often served as take-away, it is seldom considered o be fast food.
The modern history of fast-food in America is connected with the history of the hamburger, as the earliest fast-food outlets sold hamburgers as their primary product. The American company White Castle is generally credited with opening the first fast-food outlet in Topeka, Kansas in 1921, selling hamburgers for five cents apiece. Among its innovations, the company allowed customers to see the food being prepared. White Castle later added five holes to each beef patty to increase its surface area and speed cooking times. White Castle was successful from its inception and spawned numerous competitors. In recent decades, Mexican-style food like tacos and burritos, as well as pizza, have also become staples of fast food culture.
McDonald's, a noted fast-food supplier, opened its first franchised restaurant in 1955. It has become a phenomenally successful enterprise in terms of financial growth, brand-name recognition, and worldwide expansion. Ray Kroc, who bought the franchising license from the McDonald brothers, pioneered many concepts which emphasized standardization. He introduced uniform products, identical in all respects at each outlet, to increase sales. At the same time, Kroc also insisted on cutting food costs as much as possible, eventually using the McDonald's Corporation's size to force suppliers to conform to this ethos.
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