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Fast food: the history of the most popular chains today

Photo: Alora Griffiths on Unsplash / Unsplash

Every day they are more robust and complex fast food proposalsHowever, there are some legendary chains that are the most emblematic and that for many years have transformed the industry. Fast food is a name that refers to the food that is made and presented to customers in no time. Among its most representative characteristics is the use of preheated or precooked ingredients, its preparation in bulk and it is usually sold in take-out packages. Without a doubt it is a fascinating journey in time to know the stories surrounding the creation of these emblematic restaurants, which are still the most popular today.

The first hamburger chain in the United States was White Castle, inaugurated in 1921. It was a project spearheaded by Billy Ingram and Walter Anderson, who started the first White Castle restaurant in Wichita in 1916. They offered a small menu based on cheap hamburgers and therefore sold them in large numbers. At the same time, also in 1921 some of the first franchises appeared and in fact the first restaurant franchise appeared in the 1930s by Howard Johnson.

Later, when cars became more popular, self-service restaurants began to appear throughout the United States. A rather peculiar fact is what happened in 1940, when customers by car were attended in workshops and the staff served on skates, an incredible experience! Shortly after in 1948 the first McDonald’s was opened, which was opened by the McDonald brothers who previously owned a restaurant but not a “fast food” type. Shortly after them, others began opening their fast food chains: Burger King and Taco Bell opened theirs in the 1950swhile Wendy’s started in 1969. Carl’s Jr., KFC, and Jack in the Box existed before in other forms, as did McDonald’s, but as fast food began to catch on and they reinvented themselves.

The rest is history since hamburgers are not the only type of fast food sold in the world. Throughout time there have been other popular alternatives as is the case with Chinese food, sandwiches, pitas, fried chicken, hot dogs, pizza, tacos, desserts and many other temptations. With the aim of supplying all the branches of each fast food branch ”with the same quality and standards, fast food operations make food from processed ingredients in a central supply facility and then they are sent to restaurants where they are prepared.

The history of McDonald’s:

At the moment McDonald’s is present in 126 countries on 6 continents and it has about 31,000 restaurants around the world. Regarding its history, it is known that the first McDonald’s restaurant was founded in 1948 by the brothers Maurice (“Mac”) and Richard McDonald in San Bernardino, California. They bought appliances for their little burger joint from salesman Ray Kroc, who was intrigued by their need for eight malt and smoothie mixers. When Kroc visited the brothers in 1954 to see how a small store could sell so many milk shakes, he discovered a simple and efficient format that it allowed the brothers to produce large quantities of food at low prices. Seeing great promise in his restaurant concept, Kroc offered to start a franchise program for the McDonald brothers. On April 15, 1955, he opened the first McDonald’s franchise in Des Plaines, Illinois., and in the same year launched McDonald’s Corporation, finally buying from the McDonald brothers in 1961. The number of McDonald’s stores would exceed 1,000 before the end of the decade. Later in 1965, fueled by steady growth, the company’s shares went public. McDonald’s public face was created in 1963 with the introduction of the clown named Ronald McDonald. Later, other products and symbols would define the McDonald’s brand, including Big Mac (1968), Egg McMuffin (1973), Happy Meals (1979), and Chicken McNuggets (1983).

The Burger King story:

Burger King was founded in 1954 by James W. McLamore and David Edgerton in Miami. Then the entrepreneurs sold their first franchises in 1959, and Burger King soon became a national chain. In fact, they quickly expanded their horizons, since in 1963 they opened their first store in Puerto Rico. The truth is that Burger King went through many changes of ownership and corporate governance, in 1967 it was sold to the Pillsbury Company, which, in the late 1970s, brought in Donald N. Smith, a former McDonald’s executive, who transformed the Burger King project by expanding the menu and tightening control of the franchisees. Later in 1989, Pillsbury was acquired by the British company Grand Metropolitan (Grand Met). Grand Met became Diageo PLC after its merger with Irish brewer Guinness PLC in 1997. In 2002, Diageo sold Burger King to a consortium of private equity financiers. Later in 2010, 3G Capital an investment group controlled by the Brazilian billionaire: Jorge Paulo Lemann, took over the company in a leveraged buyout. By 2012, Burger King shares were being sold to the public again, but 3G retained a majority stake. Burger King Worldwide merged with Canadian donut and fast food chain Tim Hortons in 2014, and a new parent company called Restaurant Brands International was formed. Another interesting fact is that its most iconic and largest hamburger: Whopper, which is considered Burger King’s flagship product, was introduced on the menu in 1957; a time when its direct competitor McDonald’s sold only small hamburgers.

The Taco Bell story:

Taco Bell is a fast food restaurant chain based in Irvine, California, United States, offering Mexican-inspired meals. Founded in 1962 by American businessman Glen BellToday the chain has more than 7,000 locations and more than 350 franchises around the world. Before the first Taco Bell opened, Glen Bell owned and operated several other restaurants: Bell’s Drive-In and Bell’s Hamburgers and Hot Dogs in San Bernardino. His idea of ​​serving Mexican-inspired fast food began in 1951 at his restaurant Bell’s Hamburgers and Hot Dogs, dwhere he decided to sell hard shell tacos to distinguish himself from his rivals (In particular McDonald’s, which also took root in San Bernardino). Later, Bell was a member of societies that owned Taco Tia (1954–56) and El Taco (1958–62), both of which had multiple locations in Southern California. After selling his stake in El Taco, became the sole owner of Taco Bell and opened the first location in Downey, in a modest building. Taco Bell expanded rapidly, obtaining its first franchisee; a retired police officer named Kermit Becky, in 1964 and with him he opened his 100th restaurant in Anaheim. Three years later, Bell went public with the company; by then i had a total of 325 restaurants located in the western region of the United States. In 1978, PepsiCo Inc. purchased 868 Taco Bell restaurants for approximately $ 125 million and it was in fact this sale that started Taco Bell’s shift from a regional hit to a national sensation.

Although the fast food industry continues to grow and it is estimated that there are some places in the world where its consumption is high, as in the United States and some Latin American countries. There are also signs that the most popular chains are losing market, especially considering the current natural eating trend which is related to great health benefits and is key in disease prevention.

Even though the fast food industry is swidely criticized for its harmful effects on health and other myths that have emerged over the years. We cannot deny that their stories and origins reflect evolution and innovation, finally we have all consumed their products at some time. The secret? Do not overdo it.

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