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America's Love Affair With Fast Food; Why?

Updated on September 15, 2013

Looking back in history

What is it that makes fast food so popular? And why is that after knowing the unhealthy stats, we still run to it like obsessed addicts?

Looking back in history,

In 1940, brothers Maurice and Richard ("Mac" and "Dick") McDonald opened a restaurant in San Bernardino, California. The restaurant was named "McDonald's Famous Barbeque" and served over forty barbequed items.

After realizing that their profit came from selling burgers and not barbeque, in October 1948, the restaurant was closed down, and reopened in December of that year as a "Fast Food" joint with a simple menu of just hamburgers, cheeseburgers, french fries, shakes, soft drinks, and apple pie. The kitchen was redesigned to ensure maximum efficiency, like a 'factory' an assembly line was introduced. They called this restaurant 'McDonald's'.

Phenomenal growth actually started in the 1960s and 1970s when they started advertising with their golden arc campaign "Look for the Golden Arches".

But is McDonald's to be credited, or blamed, for this boisterous fast food industry, or for introducing fast food to America?


Introducing other fast food chains:

A&W began in June 1919 in California, when Frank Wright partnered with Roy Allen mostly selling root beer. 1960, 2000 A & W restaurants in the US opened up selling burgers, fries, drinks, etc.

White Castle was founded in 1921 in Wichita, Kansas. Anderson, one of the owner of white castle is the actual designer of the assembly line kitchen, thus, giving rise to the modern fast food phenomenon. He was also credit with the creation burger buns.

What other factors have played a role in making fast food the billion-dollar industry that exists in America?



Factor 1: Women and Work

July 1920, women in America were rolling up their sleeves and joining the workforce. The New York Times ran a head line that read: "The American Woman ... has lifted her skirts far beyond any modest limitation" which did not imply to just fashion.

The revolution that called for women to go out and work in 1890 did not come into full bloom until the 1970s. In that time, women's expectations of future employment changed. Women became the secondary earners, and Labor force participation by women grew significantly.

By now, great number of families had both parents working a nine to five jobs. Needless to say, that leaves little time in the kitchen. Though many people do pull it off, a greater number of Americans simply can't, and that results in them picking up fast food on a regular bases.

Factor 2 : The rise in single parenting in the United States.
A report released by the U.S. Census Bureau in November, 2009, said:
"There are 13.7 million single moms and dads currently raising their children in the U.S.

53.7% of custodial single parents work full-time, year-round and 27.7% of custodial single parents work either part-time or part-year."

This has lent greatly to our nations near-dependence on fast food. Countless parents are left with the unfortunate option that providing for their children by working long hours means risking their health by having to get them fast food regularly. In these cases, the parents and the child become almost addicted. The consistent salty flavors and soft textures are the most pleasing to our brains, so it usually reaches the point that every other food cannot measure up. For the parents especially, the addiction comes into play with the convenience and low price, to the point where buying actual groceries or spending extra money on fresh vegetables is preposterous.


Factor 3: Probably the most important factor, Advertisement!

It's every where! Your home, work, car, computer, and even in your cell phones! You cannot avoid it. Huge billboards inviting you to take the next turn, and come and join us, not just one but several fast food restaurant to choose from. The temptations are everywhere. Fast food advertising industries are enormous conglomerates; they know exactly what to say and show every demographic to make them want to come to their restaurant. It may seem innocent, or like worrying about it is a silly conspiracy theory, but they spend billions on that aspect alone, probably more than they actually spend on food costs. Its serious.

Factor 4: Time and Convince

The generation that we are in is always rushing, especially here in America. From morning till evening. Have you noticed the increase in all these articles and shows and sites, how much they are talking about spending time with your family? So what do you do as guilty spouse, a guilty parent.. Let's go spend some time together.. Let's eat out, and the children all scream in unison "McDonald's"!!!

Its easier to take kids out to Burger King then to cook a meal after a hard day. What used to be an occasion to go out and eat at a fast food restaurant, has become a deadly, I mean daily, routine.


To Conclude:

Although, fast food restaurant are introducing lot of healthy options, they are not 'substituting' the old menu with the healthy menu, they are merely adding to the old menu! What does this do? It is basically increasing their customers, hence their profits. Isn't that what it is all about? They still have their old customers who are hooked, now they want to bring in the ones who were avoiding the 'unhealthy' fast foods, hence, the enticing 'healthy' menu'. It's called 'Target Marketing'.

It took almost more than a century to reach this point. Fast food is engraved in our brains, it runs through our blood, it would take longer to get ride of this phenomenal love-affair with this vast industry.


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    • LaThing profile imageAUTHOR


      5 years ago from From a World Within, USA

      Thanks for dropping in, Shinkicker. Glad to know that you avoid fast food! There is so much you can do with a home cooked meal; not only having family time but also eating healthy. Really appreciate your comment. Take care :)

    • Shinkicker profile image


      5 years ago from Scotland

      So true. People forget the social and family value of cooking and eating a meal together. There's always time. Less focus on acquiring more and more money and more time for the family is always best.

      I avoid fast food and very rarely eat McDonalds.

      Great Hub

    • LaThing profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago from From a World Within, USA

      Hey Billy, you did pull this out of the archive, LOL.... Thanks, my friend! Aren't we obsessed with fast food!! I left it long time ago, and I don't really miss it. Once in a while is ok! Thanks for your comment, and it's always lovely to see you :)

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 

      6 years ago from Olympia, WA

      I thought I would pull one out of your archives and you wrote a dandy here. America and convenience. Never any's our tradition, is it not? I am happy to report that Bev broke me of this habit. I used to live on fast food; now, hardly ever. One burger a month is about it. Funny thing....I am healthier now. LOL Go figure!

      Good job Lizzie, and thank you for your friendship.

    • LaThing profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago from From a World Within, USA

      Hi Danette,

      Yes, fast food has become a casual everyday meal now a days. It's sad to see that most of us don't even worry how this is effecting our children, the future generation!

      Thank you for your comment and vote, appreciate your vist :)

    • Danette Watt profile image

      Danette Watt 

      6 years ago from Illinois

      I remember back in the late 1960s, early 1970s, going to McDonald's was a treat. One time, my dad made burgers for dinner. Since there were 6 of us kids, he wrapped them in napkins to keep warm in the oven as others cooked. I remember him taking them out and one of us kids saying, "just like McDonald's!" Now it's commonplace.

      I don't eat much fast food. It really isn't good for you.

      Interesting history of McDonald's and other fast food places. Voted up.

    • LaThing profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago from From a World Within, USA

      @ Rahul, thank you for your visit, appreciate it.

      @sgbrown, I will check out your hub, always interested in this topic. Thanks for your vote.

      @ festers, thanks for the info. Didn't know they sell rice, and noodle in other countries. Very interesting. Thanks for your comment...

      Sorry for the delayed response! :)

    • rahul0324 profile image

      Jessee R 

      6 years ago from Gurgaon, India

      Awesome hub!.. great info

    • sgbrown profile image

      Sheila Brown 

      6 years ago from Southern Oklahoma

      Very good hub! I like this history you included in this article. I agree, fast food has become an addiction, and not a healthy one. I wrote a hub along the same lines a while back. People need to realize how unhealthy eating fast food too often can be. But it is so easy and that is what the kids want, so they run by the "burger joint" on the way home. If you would like to check out what I wrote, it is titled "Who is in Control of What Your Children Eat?" You might find it interesting as well. Voted this up and shared! Great job! :)

    • festersporling1 profile image

      Daniel Christian 

      6 years ago from Los Angeles, CA

      Didn't know that little bit of history on Mcdonalds. In the Philippines, McDonald's sells rice and spaghetti with their meals and in Japan, there are noodle items. McDonalds caters to each country differently to include best sellers from that country.

    • LaThing profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago from From a World Within, USA

      lol, .... I think kids say that even if you have the whole home cooked meal on the table; it's not what they want! And you are right, it doesn't take that long to whip up a meal, specially with all the conveniences of our modern world!

      Thanks for reading my hub, and for your wonderful comment.

    • Dolores Monet profile image

      Dolores Monet 

      6 years ago from East Coast, United States

      Well give me some fast food and I'll get a stomach ache. One of my sons (grown) recently complained that there was no food in the house, only ingredients. And heard that Martha Stewart's daughter had the same complaint about her mother. Though that was pretty funny.

      But when both parents are out working full time, the time for cooking isn't what it once was. However, it doesn't take long to whip up a salad, boil some potatoes, and stick a piece of chicken in the George Forman.

    • LaThing profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago from From a World Within, USA

      @beadreamer, you brought out a good point, some children are growing up with fast food, and don't see parents cook! Maybe on occasions.....

      Thank you for reading my hub, and your comments are always appreciated.

    • beadreamer247 profile image


      7 years ago from Zephyrhills, FL

      Well, now and then I can survive on a fast food, but growing up with real food cooked at home - my taste buds will never become addicted to the fast food. A lot of children nearly grow up with fast food only, never see their parents prepare food at home (yes, I had a personal experience like that!)and so how will they know how to prepare food at home?

      The changes they are trying to come up with for healthier food are just advertising and it still isn't much healthier. The only healthy stuff you find is a slice of tomato, a salad leaf, maybe a hint of onion and that's almost it...What about all the vegetable available?

      I personally feel - people got so used to fast food and forget to know how to cook at home and find all kind of excuses to to for fast food, besides the fact that it is relatively affordable. The kids eat without moaning - I really think that's a BIG factor!

      I prefer to go to a better place, if I choose to eat out and fewer times a year than going to a fast food place.

    • LaThing profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago from From a World Within, USA

      Yes, you are right. We tend to abuse it! It is convenient, like you said, on a road trip, or other times, but it's us, the people have made it into a daily meal. The fast food chains will put out what the consumer demands.

      lol, you know in England Burger King actually sells vege burger! I have tried it, and it's pretty good....

      Thanks for reading it, and your comment. Appreciate it.

    • michiganman567 profile image


      7 years ago from Michigan

      I think that fast food gets a bad rap. Yes it is high in calories, but it isn't intended to be eaten every meal of the day. It comes in very handy on long road trips or a quick lunch. People just need some moderation.

      I'm glad that they have not abandoned their menu due to the political pressure of the nanny state. I don't want to go to McDonalds for a Veggie burger.


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