Fast Food: U.S. Growth Industry

December 8, 1978

Report Outline
Rapid Growth in the Seventies
Evolution of Fast-Food Business
Influence on U.S. Eating Habits
Special Focus

Rapid Growth in the Seventies

Appeal of Low Prices and Fast Service

What is more American than apple pie? The answer today is hamburgers — or fried chicken or pizza. Americans are eating out more than ever before, and away-from-home meals are increasingly likely to be eaten at fast-food outlets that dot the nation's landscape. Chains such as McDonald's, Kentucky Fried Chicken, Burger King and Pizza Hut serve a multitude of customers with minimum delay (hence “fast” food) at relatively low prices. Not only is the fast-food business booming, but the future looks very bright. John C. Maxwell Jr., a food industry analyst, calls the 1970s the “decade of the fast-food business” and predicts “excellent growth” in the years ahead.

Industry observers estimate that fast-food restaurant sales accounted for about 20 percent of the $87 billion Americans spent on food eaten away from home last year. The U.S. Department of Commerce estimates that the franchise segment of the restaurant industry — some 60,000 predominantly fast-food outlets belonging to 315 nationwide chains — will account for $20 billion in sales in 1978.

According to the National Restaurant Association, fast-food outlets fit this general description: Each (1) serves mainly one type of food, (2) has a limited menu that appeals to all ages, (3) is inexpensive, (4) serves snacks as well as meals, (5) belongs, for the most part, to a chain, (6) requires customers to pick up their food at a counter and (7), most frequently, concentrates on serving hamburger, fried chicken or fried fish.

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