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The Year in Fast Food

The Year in Fast Food

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McDonald's tried to be healthy, Burger King tried to win back its second rank, and more fast-food news of 2012

Pizza Hut threw pizza parties, McDonald's launched a pretzel burger, and Burger King debuted a bacon sundae.

Every year, fast-food chains slowly expand overseas, launch new menu items, and try out new marketing themes. And while certain things, like the McRib's return, are an annual occurrence everyone expects to happen, other items (looking at you, dessert nachos) always capture the media's attention.

Fast-casual chains like Applebee's don't count, but the chain's moves to be a more urban, hip establishment were mimicked by the fast-food category; other chains tried to add gourmet touches to their mass produced menus, launching "fresher" takes on classic menu items. There were some marketing faux pas along the way, some drama about politics, and a new movement to increase the wages of those working in the industry.

So here it is: the year in fast food. Whether you're a fan of McDonald's, a Burger King advocate, or simply one who wants validation for their anti-fast-food habits, these stories look back on whether the fast-food chains of today are the same as those of yesteryear. And In-N-Out fans? Well, there weren't any expansions this year, so you're out of luck.

Click through our slideshow to see what happened in fast food in 2012.

The History of Fast Food in America

Contrary to popular opinion, the history of fast food did not start at the same point in time and space as the history of McDonald&rsquos. The name and location of the first fast food restaurant is lost to history but it might have been in Ancient Rome. Urban living in Ancient Rome involved many people in multi-storied apartment buildings, most of which had little or no cooking area. Street vendors and walk-up restaurants fed large segments of the populace.

Later on, during the Middle Ages, quick and inexpensive food was abundant in the larger cities of Europe, including London and Paris, where the fast food establishments of the day fed locals and tourists alike. Pilgrimages to holy sites were becoming popular and tourism in general was becoming a possibility for more people than ever before in time. A quick bite of hearty, inexpensive food was news eagerly shared among travelers.

Official Street Fighter Cookbook Highlights Street Food Recipes Around The World

Photo courtesy of Insight Editions

There’s a very fond place in my heart for Street Fighter II. The prolific arcade game has amassed a small fortune not only from myself but probably millions of youths across the globe for decades.

Insight Editions has announced the release of an official Street Fighter Cookbook that’s soon to hit bookshelves.

The cookbook features more than 80 recipes inspired by the iconic arcade game and media franchise characters.

It highlights dishes from around the world such as Chanko Nabe, Spaghetti Carbonara, Plantanos Maduros, and other delectable favorites of the World Warrior combatants.

You can find the Street Fighter Cookbook available in bookstores or on Amazon beginning June 1.

Everyone is speculating on what will happen next

A year after the onset of pandemic conditions, the most likely result is for fast food brands to push into the success they found in said conditions. In February, for instance, Delish covered how Chipotle had announced plans to add their Chipotlanes to 70 percent of their restaurants in response to the 174-percent rise in digital ordering seen during 2020.

Digital ordering, delivery, drive-thru — these trends have established themselves over the past year, leading to success for prepared restaurants. However, how these trends will be felt after mass vaccination remains an open question. After all, the restaurants which have really suffered from the pandemic are not franchises with a corporate backing but the independent eateries that barely get by in the best-case scenarios, anyway.

Food Business News wrote in June 2020 of market consolidation and how every restaurant will need to have a digital strategy. "Just making the menu available online for ordering is not going to be enough in the post-pandemic world," Amit Sharma, senior consumer foods analyst at Rabobank, explained. This has led to the speculation that ghost kitchens and virtual franchises are the future, as Eater notes.

However, Restaurant Business paints an optimistic picture, suggesting that after a year of food on the go, people desire fine dining more than anything. After a year of shrinking, the number of open businesses could thrive in a low-supply, high-demand environment. Getting there, though, may prove too costly.

Is This the Year Fast-Food Pizza Disappears?

2014 may be the end of pizza chains as we know them, as veteran fast-food chains like Domino's and Pizza Hut attempt to compete with fast-casual rookies by upping their quality and atmosphere.

Domino's will remodel all of its restaurants to fit the "Pizza Theatre" prototype by 2017, the company announced on Wednesday. The new design would feature more open space and lower counters, with pizza-making at the front of the store - changes reminiscent of fast-casual restaurants such as Chipotle-backed Pizzeria Locale that advertise their fast, high-quality options.

"Consumers have told us they'd like our stores to be more inviting," says Tim McIntyre, Domino's vice president of communications. "They'd like to see their pizzas being made. They'd like the opportunity to sit and enjoy their pizzas fresh from the oven."

The changes promise to be expensive, with franchisees shouldering the cost of the redesigns. Updates will reportedly range between $40,000 and $55,000 per store.

Domino's is not the only company scrambling to get on the fast-casual pizza bandwagon. Pizza Hut announced Thursday that it would be releasing a new version of its hand-tossed pizza that emphasizes the new pie's lighter, airier crust.

"It took a lot of hard work to get us to a position where we feel we have the best Hand-Tossed product available today," Pizza Hut chief marketing officer Carrie Walsh said in a statement. "The recipe for this pizza is a game changer for the industry and the preparation by our team members to make each Hand-Tossed pizza one-of-a-kind leads the way in the pizza category."

Earlier this week, Pizza Hut announced that new stores would be serving pizza by the slice and feature deck ovens and a wide open dining environment. These adjustments, like Domino's store redesign, hit on aspects of fast-casual pizzerias - wide open eating areas, emphasis on the pizza making process - while keeping customer favorites and keep delivery and service time low.

"Most of our stores in the U.S. feature a design that was introduced in 1997 - we need to bring them up to date," says Domino's McIntyre. However, with Domino's and Pizza Hut attempting out out-class each other this week, it's clear that the pressure is also on the veteran chains to contend with their more upscale, fast-casual competition.

Newcomers have so far defined the fast-casual market. Chipotle, which has become the go-to reference for fast-casual burritos, recently financed Pizza Locale in Denver. PizzaREv, a fast-casual build-your-own-pizza concept backed by Buffalo Wild Wings, announced its first major wave of expansion in five states this week. In the coming year, the co-founders of California Pizza Kitchen plan to debut a fast-casual concept, as does the Italian brand Fazoli's.

The dressing up of fast-food chains has a long history prior to the recent pizza trend. Classic fast-food burger giants like McDonald's and Burger King now compete with chains such as Bareburger and b.good. Instead of uniform, cheap costs, these chains emphasize terms such as "artisan," "organic" and "family farms." In the face of such competition, many chains have increasingly emphasized issues of health and sustainability in marketing. Even 7-Eleven has redesigned certain stores, added healthy snacks and started selling fine wine.

However, in the world of pizza, restaurants' efforts may all be for nothing. Large national pizza chains don't get credit from consumers for food quality and fresh ingredients, according to a late December Technomic report. If upgrading the appearance of stores doesn't change customers' perceptions, franchisees could end up spending thousands for a new look that customers just don't buy.

Fast Food Delivers More Calories Than Decades Ago

FRIDAY, March 1, 2019 (HealthDay News) -- Fast food fans today are ordering off menus that have grown more apt to make them fat.

Portion sizes have risen dramatically over the past three decades at the most popular fast food restaurants in the United States, a new study has found.

As a result, the amount of calories and excess sodium has also increased among fast food offerings, said lead author Megan McCrory, a research associate professor with the Boston University College of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences.

Average portion size nearly quadrupled for fast food entrees, and more than quadrupled for desserts between 1986 and 2016, McCrory and her team discovered.

Calories and sodium content in entrees, sides and desserts also increased significantly.

Desserts packed on an extra 62 calories per decade, while entrees increased by 30 calories per decade, researchers reported.

Meanwhile, sodium increased by about 4.6 percent of recommended daily value for entrees each decade, and 3.9 percent of daily value for sides.

"The portion size increase is largely responsible for the increase in calories and sodium," McCrory said.

Responding to the new study, the National Restaurant Association said it has championed menu labeling "to give customers the information they need to make healthier choices for their families.

"In 2008, we launched the Kids LiveWell program to promote consumption of fruit and vegetables, lean protein, whole grains and low-fat dairy, while limiting unhealthy fats, sugars and sodium," the association said in a statement. "The association continues to educate members about the benefits of offering healthier menu items and participating in portion balance discussions with industry leaders."

But the increases discovered in this research also reflect the "provocative" changes that have occurred in fast food within recent years, said Michelle Milgrim. She's a registered dietitian and manager of employee wellness at Northwell Health in New Hyde Park, N.Y., and was not part of the study.

These changes include sandwiches that replace buns with fried chicken breasts, pizza crust filled with cheese, and bacon added to many menu items, Milgrim said.


"We're seeing new items we've never seen before," Milgrim said. "The American public is probably not necessarily picking up on the nuanced increases in portion size year over year, decade over decade, that these new items entail."

Fast food restaurants are more popular than ever, with nearly 2 out of 5 adults eating fast food on any given day, researchers said in background notes.

The average amount of total daily calories represented by fast food has more than doubled, rising from 4 percent of total caloric intake in 1977-1978 to 11 percent in 2007-2010.

For this study, the researchers reviewed menu items offered at 10 popular fast food restaurants in 1986, 1991 and 2016. The restaurants were Arby's, Burger King, Carl's Jr., Dairy Queen, Hardee's, Jack in the Box, KFC, Long John Silver's, McDonald's and Wendy's.

Menus at these restaurants offer more selection than ever. The total number of entrees, desserts and sides increased by 226 percent, or about 23 items per year, researchers found.

But portion sizes also steadily increased over the years, a trend that reflects overall American eating patterns, McCrory said.

"I think we see an increase in portion size pretty much in the entire food supply," McCrory said. "In some ways, the fast food restaurants are probably just keeping up with expectations of the size of the food people expect to be served. The same kind of things are happening in other restaurants that aren't fast food."

Milgrim said she's most concerned with the steady increase in fast food's salt content.

"These foods are just sodium-laden," Milgrim said. "With obesity and hypertension as main causes of mortality among the American public, it's so important for us to consider sodium."

It's not all bad news. Calcium and iron levels also increased in fast food over the years, meaning that folks are getting more of these important nutrients, McCrory said.

But given how calorie-rich fast food is, "there are better places to get calcium and iron," McCrory added.

People who love fast food can take steps to cut back on calories, McCrory said.


They can split their fries or dessert with a friend, or order a single burger instead of a double, for example.

"They can still get the same taste, they would just be getting less calories," McCrory said.

Even better, people can start considering fast food as a treat instead of a regular option.

"I understand fast food is an economical way to get food that tastes good, and you know what you're getting when you go there," McCrory said. "But it might be good to eat fast food less often, make it more of a special occasion instead of something that's done regularly."

The new study was published in the March issue of the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.

Fast-food breakfast is 'top food story' of the year

Three of this year's top-10 stories revolved around the fast food industry: Domino's new emoji ordering option ranked as No. 7 and the availability of alcohol at fast food locations, such as some Starbucks and Taco Bell locations, came in at No. 9.

American consumers said the most important food story of the year was the expansion of fast-food breakfast menu items to more times of day, along with breakfast menu innovation, according to a press release from Hunter Public Relations. Three of this year's top-10 stories revolved around the fast food industry: Domino's new emoji ordering option ranked as No. 7 and the availability of alcohol at fast food locations, such as some Starbucks and Taco Bell locations, came in at No. 9.

"The fast food industry is tapping into the 'want it now' mentality of today's consumer by offering greater availability of favorite offerings," said Grace Leong, CEO and partner of Hunter Public Relations. "Consumers who crave breakfast food in the afternoon no longer feel they should have to wait until tomorrow morning to satisfy it. They also want the ability to purchase other favorite non-traditional fast food items — such as alcohol — at places they already frequent regularly."

Rounding out the top 10 stories are the Whole Foods Overcharging Scandal (No. 4) and Anheuser-Busch Acquiring SABMiller (No. 10).

1. Evolving Fast Food Breakfast Landscape

2. Blue Bell Issues Recall

3. Western Drought Impact Expands

4. Whole Foods Overcharging Scandal

5. Artificial Flavors and Ingredients Phase Out

8. Food Waste the New Eco-Concern

9. Alcohol Availability at Fast Food Locations

10. Anheuser-Busch Acquires SABMiller

This year's food news study confirms that America's appetite for food news is on the rise, according to the release. Forty-five percent of Americans state that food news stories are more important than other news stories — up from 32 percent two years ago. Respondents feel that food safety (63 percent) and nutrition (47 percent) are the two most important food topics.

Food waste elicits concern and changes in behavior

"Food Waste: the New Eco Concern" (the No. 8 top story overall) elicited more concern and behavior changes in 2015 than other habits and actions reported, with 41 percent of those trying to make changes claiming they are trying to waste less food. While consumers continue to report 'better for you' behaviors like "eating less processed food" and "paying more attention to ingredient lists" in significant numbers, "trying to waste less food" was the most significant in the hierarchy of reported consumer behavior changes overall.

Consumption of food information grows in digital and social media channels

In addition to the top food news of the year and its impact on consumer behavior, the Hunter PR Food News Study expanded three years ago to delve more deeply into where and how consumers are accessing information about food and cooking. Websites beat out magazines and television this year as the top source for recipes and nutrition information, while television and newspapers continue to be top sources for general food news overall, even among Millennials who stated Facebook as their No. 1 source for general food news.

Social media is on the rise as a source for recipes at 38 percent versus 34 percent in 2014 for the overall population and is the No. 2 source for millennials at 40 percent. Facebook saw an increase from the previous year in consumers who reported visiting the channel to obtain the latest recipes (from 26 percent to 31percent), whereas TV cooking shows, women's magazines and coupon inserts were all on the decline.

Nearly 90 percent agree that health and medical websites were the most trusted source of truthful unbiased information on food, reinforcing the importance of the role of science in a world where nearly half of all consumers (47 percent) agree that there is too much conflicting information about food and nutrition.

Mobile on the rise

The Hunter PR Food News Study found that there is significantly more mobile usage taking place in 2015 as compared to the prior two years. Notably, "using a mobile device to search for recipes" has nearly doubled since 2013 to 36 percent, and "watching video on a mobile device to get cooking directions" has more than doubled to 22 percent. Growth in the use of mobile devices is being fueled this year by Baby Boomers, who are now approaching the level of use of Millennials and Gen Xers, with half now accessing the web through a mobile phone or tablet.

Millennials: The food-loving generation

Millennials have a strong positive connection to their food. Millennials state their top food-related resolution for 2016 is to "eat and cook more at home." Additionally, they view food news stories as more important than their age counterparts — whereas 45 percent of Americans think food stories are the most important news stories, the number increases to 54 percent for Millennials. They are also the demographic most likely to change their behavior based on GMO labeling.

Hispanic consumers ahead of the digital curve

For the first time this year, the Hunter PR Food News Study gave information regarding the Hispanic demographic. The results demonstrated the importance of food news to this consumer as well as their broad-based adoption of social and mobile media as it relates to food, cooking and interaction with brands. The study found that Hispanics are more likely to say they are "using apps offered by brands I like" (33 percent versus 20 percent) or to "watch a video on a mobile device for cooking directions" (33 percent versus 20 percent) than the total population. Like Millennials, Hispanics are also more likely to resolve to "eat and cook more at home" in 2016, with 36 percent reporting this as a resolution (versus 25 percent of non-Hispanics) and cite Facebook as their No. 1 source for recipes at 32 percent, just ahead of recipe websites at 30 percent.

For additional information about the Hunter PR 2015 Food News Study, including detailed study results, visit

About the study

The 13th annual Food News Study commissioned by Hunter Public Relations examined the top food news stories of 2015 in terms of general awareness and concern. The study also explored how food news stories influence consumer behavior and the top media sources for food information — broken out by recipes, general food news and nutrition.

Hunter PR partnered with Libran Research & Consulting for this study. Libran Research surveyed 1,001 Americans ages 18 years and older via an email invitation and online survey. The respondent sample was balanced to the U.S. population on key demographics. The survey was implemented Oct. 28 to Nov. 2, 2015, covering the 12-month period from November 2014 through October 2015.

Travis Wagoner

Travis Wagoner spent nearly 18 years in education as an alumni relations and communications director, coordinating numerous annual events and writing, editing and producing a quarterly, 72-plus-page magazine. Travis also was a ghostwriter for an insurance firm, writing about the Affordable Care Act. He holds a BA degree in communications/public relations from Xavier University.

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Where fast-food chains began

White Castle: The first White Castle location opened in 1921 in Wichita, making it the original American fast-food burger chain. Founder Bill Ingram used $700 to open the starting location and started serving the chain's signature sliders. The following year, the second White Castle opened in El Dorado, Kan., and by 1924, Ingram expanded the chain to Omaha and Kansas City, Mo. (Photo: White Castle)

The fast-food industry in this country has a long and storied history. The founders of America's biggest chains built mega-empires based on the pursuit of the American dream, and in the process changed the way that the world eats. But how did these chains first get off the ground?

Given the ways that fast food influences everything from American pop culture to politics to dietary trends, it's fascinating to look back on the origins of the biggest players in the industry. One of the first fast-food chains to emerge was White Castle, founded by Bill Ingram in Wichita in 1921 the design of the original White Castle was inspired by the Water Tower building in Chicago.

The novel and efficient system developed by the McDonald brothers at their original San Bernardino, Calif., location inspired a handful of other up-and-coming entrepreneurs to try their hand in the industry, namely Keith J. Kramer and Matthew Burns (founders of Insta-Burger King, which would later become Burger King), Carl Karcher (founder of Carl's Jr.), Glen Bell (founder of Taco Bell), and James Collins (the founder of Kentucky Fried Chicken). But certainly the person most famously inspired by the original McDonald's was Ray Kroc, who bought the company from the McDonald brothers in 1954 and turned it into the mega-corporation that it is today.

Restaurants come and go, but for one reason or another (usually a combination of quality product, smart marketing and good luck) these 14 chains have firmly cemented their place in history. But as big and powerful as they are today, they all started just like any other restaurant: small and driven by one person with a dream. Read on to learn the origins of 14 of America's most popular fast food chains.

In 1940, brothers Mac and Dick McDonald opened McDonald's Bar-B-Que in San Bernardino, Calif. eight years later they decided to revamp the restaurant's concept to specialize in their most profitable menu item, hamburgers, and shortened the name to McDonald's. In 1954, Multimixer salesman Ray Kroc visited the restaurant and was blown away by the efficient system developed by the McDonald brothers he started franchising the brand and bought the company one year later.

Former KFC franchise owner Dave Thomas opened the first Wendy's location on Nov. 15, 1969, in Columbus, Ohio. The following year, Thomas opened a second location, this time adding a drive-through pickup window. From the beginning, the chain served up its signature square burgers and milkshakes.

The predecessor of this burger mega-chain was originally founded in 1953 in Jacksonville, Fla., by relatives Keith J. Kramer and Matthew Burns. They decided to call their first location Insta-Burger King due to the broilers they purchased to cook the burgers, called Insta-Broilers. The following year, James McLamore and David Edgerton began opening Insta-Burger franchises in Miami — they replaced the Insta-Broilers with the flame broiler system that Burger King is famous for. Due to financial hardships, Kramer and Burns sold the company to McLamore and Edgerton in 1959 they subsequently renamed the chain Burger King.

Inspired by the McDonald brothers, Glen Bell opened a burger place with a similar model. However, once others started catching onto the idea, Bell decided to come up with a fresh menu concept. He began selling crunchy tacos with a combination of Mexican ingredients designed to please the American palate at his new restaurant, Taco Tia, in Downey, Calif., in 1954. Bell decided to expand the brand to include a variety of menu items and called the new concept Taco Bell.

The first White Castle location opened in 1921 in Wichita, making it the original American fast-food burger chain. Founder Bill Ingram used $700 to open the starting location and started serving the chain's signature sliders. The following year, the second White Castle opened in El Dorado, Kan., and by 1924, Ingram expanded the chain to Omaha and Kansas City, Mo.

In 1930, during the Great Depression, Harlan Sanders opened his first restaurant in a gas station in Corbin, Ky., called Sanders' Court & Café. By 1952, The Colonel began franchising his fried chicken business, which was a hit largely due to his use of pressure fryers, which greatly increased the production speed.

Al Copeland opened a restaurant called Chicken on the Run outside of New Orleans in 1972, and after it got off to a slow start he decided to make the chicken spicier, which proved to be a winning recipe. He changed the name to Popeyes Mighty Good Fried Chicken and started selling franchises in 1976.

The idea for Subway was inspired by founder Fred DeLuca's decision to open a sandwich shop to help pay for his medical school education. The idea to open the shop came from Dr. Peter Buck, who lent DeLuca $1,000 to open the original location of the sandwich shop in Bridgeport, Conn., in 1965 and became his business partner. The first shop was called Pete's Super Submarines, and it was not until 1968 that the chain took on the name Subway.

This chain was founded in 1950 in Quincy, Mass., by William Rosenberg. He had noticed that coffee and doughnuts were top sellers during his time selling food at factories and construction sites, and his formula took off he started selling franchises in 1959.

Former bread salesman Troy N. Smith purchased a root beer stand with an attached log house in Shawnee, Okla., in 1953, and converted the log house into a steak restaurant called the Top Hat. After he and his business partner noticed that hot dogs and hamburgers were the top sellers they switched focus, and also installed an intercom system that allowed customers to order from their cars. Smith and new partner Charles Pappe opened the first franchise location in 1956, and upon learning that the name Top Hat was already trademarked, they changed the name to Sonic in 1959.

Brothers Tom and James Monaghan bought a small pizzeria called DomiNick's in Ypsilanti, Mich., in 1960 for $900, and eight months later James traded his half of the business to Tom for a used Volkswagen (bad idea). In 1965 Tom changed the name to Domino's, and the first franchise opened in 1967. Tom retired in 1998, after selling 93% of the company to Bain Capital for about $1 billion.

The Raffel brothers opened the first Arby's (named after the initials of "Raffel brothers," R and B) in Boardman, Ohio, in 1964. The former restaurant equipment salesmen saw a gap in the market for fast food other than burgers, and the original location sold only roast beef sandwiches, potato chips and soft drinks. They began to expand to other states in 1968, and throughout the '70s they opened about 50 stores per year.

Brothers Dan and Frank Carney borrowed $600 from their mother to open a pizzeria – then a novel concept – in Wichita in 1958. It was a huge hit (giving away free pizza on opening day didn't hurt), and franchising began a year later.

The Dwarf House (originally The Dwarf Grill) started out in 1946 in Hapeville, Ga., when S. Truett Cathy opened it with a $10,000 investment. It had 10 counter stools and four tables. By the mid-1960s Cathy had opened a handful of other Dwarf House locations, and in 1967 he opened a restaurant devoted to selling pressure-fried chicken sandwiches, which he called Chick-fil-A. Additional locations opened in mall food courts throughout the 1970s and '80s, and the first freestanding location opened in 1986. Cathy is still alive today his outspoken son Dan is now the owner.

Watch the video: Aktien, Vermögen und Geld - mit Thomas dem Sparkojoten (August 2022).