A fast-food restaurant is a restaurant characterized by food which is supplied quickly after ordering and by minimal service. Food purchased may or may not be eaten quickly as well. Often this food is referred to fast food. In response to increasing backlash against "fast-food," the industry has been trying to move the public away from the term "fast food" over the past five years, shifting to the term quick service restaurant (QSR for short). QSR has not, however, been seen used in regular speech.
The food in these restaurants is commonly cooked in bulk in advance and kept hot, or reheated to order. Many fast-food restaurants are part of restaurant chains or franchise operations, which ship standardized foodstuffs to the individual restaurants from central locations. There are also simpler fast-food outlets, such as stands or kiosks, which might or might not provide shelter or chairs for customers (for the UK, see also below).
Because the capital requirements to start a fast-food restaurant are relatively low, particularly in areas with non-existent or little enforced health codes, small individually owned fast food restaurants are common throughout the world.
Within the United States, fast food restaurants have been losing market share to so-called fast casual restaurants which offer somewhat better and more expensive foods. In 2002, the McDonald's Corporation posted its first quarterly loss.
Because of this reliance on monoculture, on foodstuffs purchased on global commodity markets and on its displacement of local eating habits, the fast-food industry is seen by many as destroying local styles of cuisine. It is often a focus of resistance (e.g., José Bové's bulldozing a McDonald's which made him a folk hero in France, or the "McShit" campaign in the UK).
For these reasons and more, the Slow Food movement seeks to preserve local cuisines and ingredients, and directly opposes laws and habits that favor fast-food choices. Among other things, it strives to educate consumers' palates to prefer the richer and more varied local tastes of fresh ingredients harvested in season.
Although fast-food restaurants are often seen as a mark of modern technological culture, they are probably as old as cities themselves, with the style varying from culture to culture. Ancient Roman cities had bread-and-olive stands, East Asian cultures feature noodle shops, flat bread and falafel are characteristic of the Middle East.
In the United Kingdom, while fast-food restaurant chains are now common, the British tradition of take-away foods such as fish and chips and steak and kidney pie with mash (mashed potatoes) remain popular. Closer to the end of the 20th century, these have been joined by take-away outlets selling ethnic or pseudo-ethnic foods such as Italian, Chinese and Indian. For more on foods in the UK, see British cuisine.
Modern fast-food restaurants
Note that the term 'fast-food' is rather deceiving when applied to Asian restaurants. While it is fitting to describe the restaurants as fast-service, the same does not apply to customers. Among cinemas and shopping arcades, people are just as likely to sit down and socialize (over a cup of tea, soup or other products) as they are to grab a bag and take off.
The French generally do not go to fast-food restaurants for quick meals, but often buy take-away food from bakeries. French food culture is fairly sophisticated, leading to some outright hostility against typical fast-food restaurants.
Only available inside the Hong Kong International Airport:
- Autogrill on the Italian network of Autostrada freeways
- Burger King
- Chef Express in trains and train stations
- Pizzarito & Pastarito
- Chikuji Gindako
- CoCo Ichibanya
- Dom Dom Hamburger
- First Kitchen
- Freshness Burger
- Mos Burger
- Pepper Lunch
- Sukiya, "Beef bowl"
- Yoshinoya, "Beef bowl" http://www.yoshinoyausa.com/
- Burger King
- Cerveceria 100 Montaditos
- Dunkin' Donuts
- Domino's Pizza
- Pans & Company
- Pizza Hut
- Telepizza (http://www.telepizza.es)
- Tony Roma´s
- Big Kahuna Burger in the movie Pulp Fiction and also several other of Quentin Tarrantino's films.
- McMeatie's is a McDonald's spoof in the populalar Nickelodeon cartoon, Invader Zim.
- Burger Barn in the movie What's Eating Gilbert Grape?. A major event in the small fictional town of Endora, Iowa, is the arrival of the prefabricated restaurant.
- Burger Meister (http://www.sluggy.com/daily.php?date=981130) is a chain of fast-food restaurant in the webcomic Sluggy Freelance
- Burger World in Beavis and Buttheadand The Steve Harvey Show.
- Good Burger, featured in Nickelodeon's TV show All That, and a feature film known as Good Burger.
- Ninja Burger
- Krusty Burger is a chain of fast-food restaurants in the Simpsons TV show.
- Mooby's is in Kevin Smith's series of films.
- WacArnold's, the typical McDonald's clone seen in Chappelle's Show.
- WcDonald's in Cowboy Bebop, Inuyasha and various other anime.
- McDowell's, a McDonald's clone in the Eddie Murphy film, Coming to America.
- Krusty Krab, the fast-food restaurant where SpongeBob SquarePants works and home of the Krabby Patty.
- Doublemeat Palace is the fast-food resturant where Buffy Summers works in the sixth season of Buffy the Vampire Slayer.
Fast-food chains which have disappeared