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BACKForwardOrigin Of Fast Food


      Many people believe that Fast food is not only synonymous with the American lifestyle, but also had its origins in the United States. To some degree, these beliefs are understandable when one considers the significant impact on traditional cultures that the American media has had, that the term “Fast food” did not appear in the popular vocabulary until 1954 , the success of McDonald’s since Ray Kroc took over management control in 1955, and that the top ten global fast-food brands are US-owned and generate sales of over US$75 billion collectively.


      However, much fast food is European in origin, with a considerable history. For example, John Stow’s 1598 survey of London mentions fast-food-like items, as does Henry Mayhew in his social history of London in the 1840s and 1850s. The hamburger derived from the Baltic provinces of Russia in the Middle Ages, where various tribes ate steak tar tare. These Tartars, or Tatars, introduced the delicacy to their German trading partners from the port of Hamburg. The Germans fried the meat and seasoned it with onions. When German immigrants arrived in the United States, they brought this steak dish with them. This said, there is also some evidence to suggest that the Romans ate a form of hamburger as long ago as about 500 bc, and the Romans are also on record as eating a type of pizza. The sandwich allegedly owes its existence to John Montagu, 4th Earl of Sandwich, who asked for such an item during a gambling session in the early 1770s. The debate concerning the origin of fish and chips, whether it derived from London or from Mossley in Lancashire, only serves to underline the European dimension.


      Attributable to the United States is the standardized chain-owned fast-food concept, the subsequent innovations that improved the efficiency of these operations, and their growth through franchising from 1925. Frederick Harvey, an Englishman, is noted as the pioneer who, in 1876, created the uniformity in signs, décor and furnishings, and service staff attire that has become the hallmark of modern fast-food retailing. These features were also apparent in the development of the cafeteria in the 1890s, and later in the opening of Horn and Hardart’s first automat restaurant in 1902. Within the fast-food market, the origin of the standardized chain is attributed to the White Castle company, when Walter Anderson and Edgar Ingram opened their first store in 1921.