Bullet Points: The 10 Greatest Advancements in Fast Food

ByErik Amonson & Lukas Kaiser July 10, 2007 - 7:55 am | Permalink

Everything gets celebrated nowadays…and with that in mind, it's time to celebrate something IMPORTANT for once: the greatest advancements in fast food history.

 

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10.  McDonald's Monopoly

How do you combine the ruthless consumerism of the fast food industry with a board game about ruthless consumerism?  Easily.  You put "game pieces" on whatever you're looking to move (large fries and drinks, Big Macs), and then you advertise the holy hell out of it.  People like fast food, but people love fast food plus a chance to win a million dollars, or, as was more often the case, "1 sm. fry."  Over the years, McDonald's has given out enough prizes to choke an asthmatic baby (read:  1 sm. fry) because, as it turns out, someone high on the game piece totem was siphoning off the rare pieces, giving them to his friends, and sharing in the winnings.  Ah, to be possessed by the spirit of Monopoly. 

 

9.  Angus Beef

It's delicious and, by now, this high quality meat is an option on everyone's menu.  But it wasn't until 1994 that any fast food chain dove head first into Angus.  It was Arctic Circle, the Utah-based-and-therefore-little-known burger joint, who first went Angus-only back in 1994; they remain the only fast food restaurant to deal exclusively in Angus Beef today.  Though they are alone in the refusal to carry lesser meats, Arctic Circle deserves a sliver of recognition for putting enough regional pressure on the big chains to get them to step up their respective games. 

 

8. McDonald's introduces supersize it


Are you (or have you ever been) fat? You can thank David Wallerstein for that. He was the McDonald's executive who came up with the Supersize idea for McDonalds. Mickey D's "founder" Ray Kroc was an old fashioned guy and fired back at Wallerstein's suggestion that people, if they wanted more soda or more fries, would simply purchase a second helping. But Wallerstein pushed and pushed and the Supersize campaign went into affect. It was a soaring success. Why did people fall for the Supersize trickery when, at the time it was introduced, it wasn't even that much of a value in price? Because people believed if they ate one larger portion they were still not eating as much as two portions, therefore convincing themselves they weren't the helpless wads of fat they really were. Thanks mostly to "Super Size Me," McDonalds has dropped their Supersize campaign, but while it was in effect it inspired several other fast food chains, most notably Wendy's, with their "Biggie" size. But nothing beats a eating a pound of McDoanald's fries. 

 

7. Taco Bell stays open late and encourages drunks to eat their "fourth meal"


Even though it's totally counterintuitive to all logic, nothing makes a drunk person feel better like a meal right before bed. Usually these meals were limited to bar food or all night diners. But those places took too long and if you wanted to grab a hot load of food to quell your queasiness right before bedding a hot slut, you'd be shit out of luck. Taco Bell changed all that. They opened their restaurants late (first, until 11, then all the way to 1...and now, in select locations, all night). Then they started their "4th Meal" campaign. Now, in the ads, they never once mention alcohol. But their repeated campaigns depicting 20-somethings franticly searching various cities for their late night snack clearly is courting the drunk and high crowd. And God bless them--now, most other fast food places stay open late as well (or at the very least, keep the drive -thru open). Wendy's seems to take the drunken crowd almost as seriously as Taco Bell. It seems like if there's a bandwagon to be jumped on, Wendy's is chasing that wagon at full speed, jumping shoes and all.

 

6. Subway successfully tricks people into thinking they make healthy fast food


By the time I graduated high school, I was getting close to being borderline obese. I ballooned from a size 40 to a size 44 pants size within my senior year. Things were looking grim. Then I got a summer job that required I be on my feet at all time and an internship that was seven miles from my house that required a 45 minute long bike ride there and back. Oh, also, I barely had any time to eat and ended up quickly making two hot dogs for lunch and two for dinner. Needless to say, by the time I entered college, I was down to a size 36 and I had lost almost 50 pounds (in under three months). I suppose you could say I lost weight thanks to hot dogs in addition to exercise. That'd be a fib...the kind of fib Jared, from Subway, tells every day (his, as you probably know, is that he lost nearly 100 pounds).  But it's the kind of fib lazy people who don't want to ride bikes and run and exercise want to believe. Thanks to Jared and his perfect "aw shucks" delivery, Subway is now the fastest growing fast food chain in America (in fact, there are more Subway restaurants in Manhattan than there are McDonalds). Thanks to Jared, every fast food chain (save Popeye's) has "healthy" food items on their menu now. And thanks to Jared, people will continue to believe they can lose weight by not exercising and eating shitty ham sandwiches. And here's something, guys: even if you do lose weight, the sandwiches are still not "healthy" for you. They still don't contain vegetables or nutrients that your body needs and are still mostly packed with bullshit and you'll still die of a coronary. But you'd never know that...because a guy who used to be fat told you he lost weight. 

 

5. Wendy's 99 Cent Menu


The main attraction of fast food was that it was fast. But people kept coming back in droves for another reason. No, not because it was delicious. Are you serious? You're gonna get your ass kicked even suggesting that one. No...not because it was so gosh darned healthy for you. Look in the mirror--do you look healthy? Do you even look alive? No...people kept coming back because fast food was CHEAP. That, unfortunately, stopped being the case. With the advent of McDonald's meal menu and steady inflation during the 1980s, fast food quietly got more expensive, sort of like a whore who handcuffs you, gives you a blow job and then takes your wallet. By 1988, you couldn't get a full meal at a fast food spot for under three bucks, unless you were an anorexic girl or a two year old. Enter Wendy's 99 Cent Value Menu. From 1988 until a few years ago, all items on the 99 Cent Menu were...99 cents. The choices on the menu varied--sometimes a baked potato, sometimes some strange desert item, often times a weird cheeseburger with bacon that changed its name weekly--but from then on, you knew you could get full for very cheap. McDonalds soon followed suit with their dollar menu and Taco Bell and KFC recently introduced their own versions--but you can thank Dave Thomas for keeping your cheap eats intact. 

 

4.  The Drive-Through (or:  The Drive-Thru)

 

Drive-through service was pioneered by banks who rightly assumed that their customers hated to stand up under any circumstance.  But it was long after the frontier had been blazed by banks that fast food restaurants finally took up the standard of the drive-through window.  The first drive-through window opened in an Arizona McDonald's in 1975 to help serve a nearby military base, but its popularity was not limited to the army, and so the concept took root and spread.  The drive-through is beautiful not only because it allows you to stand up roughly one-less time per trip to a fast food restaurant, it also seriously reduces the amount of interpersonal contract necessary, and excises almost all direct contact.  Talk into the speaker, give money, take food, leave.  The drive-through is quick and clean and leaves very little opportunity to ruin your day, except when you drive home and realize that your order is so wrong that it makes you want to open up your own fast food place just to see if it's really that hard,  Well, guess what?  I did, and it isn't.

 

3.  Pizza is Delivered

 

Sometime after World War Two, soldiers returning from the Italian front opened pizzerias.  There were so many, though, that competition was tense, and that competition resulted in one of the finest consumer conveniences ever imagined:  hot food brought directly to your door, ready to be served and immediately eaten.  I want you to think back, now, on all the nights you've had in which a delivered pizza has saved your lazy ass from actually working to feed yourself in any way.  This is nothing to be trivialized.  Think about what it must have been like before World War II.  You'd call up your local pizza place and ask if you could get a pizza delivered only to be informed that there are no pizzeria's yet -- they largely weren't opened until after the war, remember? -- and you're talking to a guy at the lead paint store and, "Would you like some lead paint?"  And, also, your kids act all crazy from the lead paint.  Aren't you glad you can get a pizza delivered?

 

2.  Ray Kroc Supersizes McDonald's

Ray Kroc was a 50-something-year-old milkshake machine salesman when he first set foot in a McDonald's restaurant, so he knew he didn't have any more time to waste.  He was interested by the quantity of machines the McDonald's wanted (8), and immediately went into business with them setting up a series of their quick-serve burger stops across the state of California.  He bought out the McDonald brothers in 1961 and pushed his fast food empire global.  Finally, in a move that surprised no one, the McDonald's magnate died of heart trouble.  Live by the burger, die by the burger.

 

1. The Earl of Sandwich puts meat between two pieces of bread


John Montagu was not destined to be a great man. He lived his life as the Earl of a small area of England rather uneventfully and though he was born of noble birth, he was really an average guy. Which makes it rather fitting that he singlehandedly invented fast food. You might already know the legend--that the Earl was looking a quick way to eat his steak while gambling and quickly improvised and put the meat between two pieces of bread (hah! he invented it while gambling...sounds like a pretty cool guy actually). This story has been disputed by party poopers who claim he probably invented the "Sandwich" while working, at his desk. But whether the Earl was busy with work or with a hearty round of gambling...he needed his food...FAST. And thus John Montagu, the Earl of Sandwich, jump-started the whole fast food movement. What a saint. 

 


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