The Evolution of Fast Food

  • Introduction (1)

    Although the essence of fast food has been around for hundreds of years, the post World War II America was motivated to find ways to make lives more efficient and that meant finding ways to eat more efficiently too. It may come as no surprise that people have always been looking for the easy way out, but what might be more of a surprise is that the first form of fast food was invented in 1896.
  • Introduction (2)

    Nowadays, on every street corner, there is some sort of fast food place. Whether that be a McDonald’s or a KFC or even a small-town business; fast food has woven itself into American society. Although it may have looked different in 1896 compared to modern days, the thought process behind it was the same: to get people food faster.
  • Introduction (3)

    This idea carried itself all the way through to the beginning of the well-known and still prevalent hamburgery, McDonald’s and still continues to challenge diners as the world population keeps growing. Across the world but especially in the United States, fast food has greatly contributed to today's culture.
  • Introduction (4)

    What originally started as a way to serve customers more efficiently, has turned into an American staple and is often one of the first things that people think of when they think of America. From small towns to big cities, the fast food industry has implemented a new system of buying and eating food for people everywhere.
  • Introduction (5)

    This system has significantly cut down on the time it takes to prepare similar meals, and sometimes it is even cheaper to buy fast food than it is to prepare it at home which is why this industry has seen so much success. The convenience and efficiency of fast food has made it quite a popular option for meals in today’s society.
  • Introduction (6)

    Oftentimes, it is easy to grab a burger or some fries as a snack after class since it is so convenient, especially for a college student, but what is rarely ever thought of is how it all started; what led up to modern-day America, with fast food dominating the streets? This interactive timeline shows key points along the way from the very beginning of fast food to what the industry looks like today.
  • The Automat (1)

    The Automat (1)
    One of the very first forms of “fast food” was created by Max Sielaff in the late 1800s in Berlin. He created the first form of what is now the modern-day vending machine. This device, shown in the picture above, was made of iron and wood and was the first to allow customers to buy food without sitting in a restaurant and ordering face-to-face.
  • The Automat (2)

    The Automat (2)
    According to the article The “Automat”. A History of Technological Transfer and the Process of Global Standardization in Modern Fast Food Around 1900 (Volume 7) by Angelica Epple, Max Sielaff was an engineer who had been inventing slot machines for many years and eventually partnered with the European Chocolate maker Gebrüder Stollwerck to create this machine which they called the “Automat.”
  • White Castle (1)

    White Castle (1)
    Edgar Waldo Ingram, shown in this picture, was one of the co-founders of the White Castle restaurants and is often referred to as the “Father of Fast Food” according to Dave Hogan in his article, How Billy Ingram Made Hamburger “America’s Choice” (Volume 4). White Castle is generally credited as the first fast food restaurant, founded in 1921 in Wichita, Kansas before moving headquarters to Colombus, Ohio in 1934.
  • White Castle (2)

    White Castle (2)
    Ingram completely changed the American dining experience with his staple food, hamburgers. According to Dave Hogan, before White Castle, most Americans turned their noses up at the thought of eating ground beef because it was originally believed to be “poor man’s steak." Ingram seemed to change their minds as his concept of hamburgers as fast food inspired many others in this business and before long, restaurants such as McDonald’s and other hamburger places were dominating the food industry.
  • Mack's Drive-In (1)

    Mack's Drive-In (1)
    When the White Castle restaurants started seeing success in this new era of food production, the rest of the United States soon followed, even the small-town businesses. In the small town of Joplin, Missouri, only one drive-in restaurant was approved by the 66 Highway Guide and Magazine and this restaurant was called Mack’s Drive-In. The above postcard shows what Mack’s looked like at nighttime when everyone was enjoying their food in their cars.
  • Mack's Drive-In (2)

    Mack's Drive-In (2)
    What was previously a barbeque restaurant quickly turned into a drive-in restaurant during the late 1930s when fast food started to become the new normal. After World War II, during the economic boom, people were more inclined to do as many tasks from their cars as possible, and that included eating. The result of this was an increase in the popularity of restaurants such as Mack’s that offered a more efficient way to dine and this only added to the ever-growing popularity of fast food.
  • Beginning of McDonald's (1)

    Beginning of McDonald's (1)
    Once the fast food industry was up and running and many producers were seeing positive results, the well-known eatery, “McDonald’s” was founded by Ray Kroc on April 15, 1955. Following in the footsteps of Edgar Waldo Ingram, Ray Kroc also made his fortune advertising the recently favoured hamburger and even created “Hamburger University.”
  • Beginning of McDonald's (2)

    Beginning of McDonald's (2)
    Soon to become the most successful fast food restaurant in the world, the original McDonald’s opened in Des Plaines, Illinois just West of Chicago. Although the original restaurant doesn’t exist anymore, the McDonald’s franchise kept the plot of land and rebuilt store #1, shown in this picture, so that people can go in now, during the 21st century and see what it was like almost 70 years ago.
  • Bibliography