Fast Food

Steve Penfold

in The Oxford Handbook of Food History

Published in print October 2012 | ISBN: 9780199729937
Published online November 2012 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks

Fast Food


Fast food probably originated in 1948, when Dick and Maurice McDonald re-designed their successful restaurant. Few of the brothers' "innovations" were entirely new. They specialized in a small number of familiar foods and applied systematic thinking to production. By fitting into existing and emerging cultures of age, family, leisure and consumption, the brothers' new outlet acquired a social life. Under Ray Kroc's leadership, McDonald's grew from its first outlet near Chicago to more than 300 locations in 44 states by 1961, when he bought out the McDonald brothers for $2.7 million. Over the next decade, McDonald's emerged as a dominant fast food chain in the United States, spread to Canada, and eventually turned into a global brand. Four themes—expansion, taste, systems, and social life—might be viewed as the basic elements of a global history of fast food, one that has similarities to the McDonald's story but is unique on its own. Technology and technocracy allowed food to become fast food.

Keywords: fast food; Ray Kroc; McDonald's; expansion; taste; systems; social life; technology; technocracy; Dick and Maurice McDonald

Article.  11230 words. 

Subjects: History ; Business History

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