In the United States alone, consumers spent about $110 billion on fast food in 2000 (which increased from $6 billion in 1970). The National Restaurant Association forecasts that fast food restaurants in the U.S. will reach $142 billion in sales in 2006, a 5% increase over 2005. In comparison, the full-service restaurant segment of the food industry is expected to generate $173 billion in sales. Fast food has been losing market share to so-called fast casual restaurants, which offer more robust and expensive cuisines. McDonald’s, a noted fast food supplier, opened its first franchised restaurant in the US in 1955 (1974 in the UK). 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.
Other prominent international fast food companies include Burger King, the number two hamburger chain in the world, known for promoting its customized menu offerings (Have it Your Way); Wendy’s, the number three burger chain and creator of the drive-through concept; Dunkin’ Donuts, a New England based chain that emphasized and refined the commissary model of food preparation, yet is not officially considered fast food, due to its concentration on breakfast and coffee; Starbucks, Seattle-born coffee-based fast food beverage corporation; KFC, a part of the largest restaurant chain in the world, Yum! Brands; and Domino’s Pizza, a pizza chain known for popularizing home delivery of fast food.
Subway restaurants are known for their sub sandwiches and Subway is the largest restaurant chain to serve such food items. The Subway restaurant chain is the fastest growing restaurant chain in the world surpassing even McDonald’s. Subway has the second most stores of any chain restaurant system in the world after McDonald’s, and the most locations in North America of any chain. Quizno’s, a Denver based sub shop is another fast growing sub chain, yet with over 6,000 locations it is still far behind Subway’s 30,000 locations. Other smaller sub shops include Blimpie, Mr. Goodcents, and Firehouse.
Many fast food operations have more local and regional roots, such as White Castle in the Midwest United States, along with Hardee’s (owned by CKE Restaurants, which also owns Carl’s Jr., whose locations are primarily on the United States West Coast); Krystal, Bojangles’, and Zaxby’s restaurants in the American Southeast; Raising Cane’s in Louisiana; Hot ‘n Now in Michigan and Wisconsin; the famous In-N-Out Burger (in California, Arizona, Nevada, and southern Utah) and Tommy’s chains in Southern California; Dick’s Drive-In in Seattle, Washington and Arctic Circle in Utah and other western states; Halo Burger around Flint, Michigan and Burgerville in the Portland, Oregon area. Also, Whataburger is a popular burger chain in the South and Mexico, and Jack in the Box is located in the West and South. Canada pizza chains Topper’s Pizza and Pizza Pizza are primarily located in Ontario. Coffee chain Country Style operates only in Ontario, and competes with the famous coffee and donut chain Tim Hortons. Maid-Rite restaurant is one of the oldest chain fast food restaurants in the United States. Founded in 1926, their specialty is a loose meat hamburger. Maid-Rites can be found in the midwest – mainly Iowa, Minnesota and Illinois.