Today’s Wonder of the Day was inspired by Jesse from Irmo. Jesse Wonders, “Who invented the first fast food restaurant?” Thanks for WONDERing with us, Jesse!
You get out of school and head straight to soccer practice. Your dad picks you up after practice, and your stomach is grumbling. But you have to head directly to your sister's piano recital instead of home. How can you satisfy your hunger? It looks like the drive-through at a fast food restaurant may be in your future.
Given the pace of today's modern society, many of us are constantly on the go. When it comes to meal time, we often don't have enough time to head home to prepare a meal. Instead, we look for the nearest fast food restaurant to grab a quick meal in between activities.
The world didn't always move at such a fast pace, though. So does that mean fast food restaurants are a relatively-new invention? Not exactly! You might be surprised to learn how far back the history of fast food restaurants stretches.
Restaurants in some shape or form have been around for most of human history. Catering to travelers, inns and taverns served food to guests dating back to ancient Greece and Rome.
It was not until 1921 in Wichita, Kansas, that the fast food restaurant was born in the form of the first White Castle restaurant, founded by short-order cook Walter Anderson and former reporter Edgar W. “Billy" Ingram. Up until that time, hamburgers were mainly sold at fairs and from food carts, and most people considered them to be a low-quality food.
White Castle aimed to change America's view of the hamburger. The first White Castle restaurant featured an open kitchen area where customers could see their food being prepared.
Fast food didn't catch on immediately, but it did begin to slowly develop along with the popularity of the automobile. As Americans became more mobile, frequent traveling led to a desire for quicker food on the go.
The assembly-line system of food preparation we associate with modern fast food restaurants didn't come about until the original McDonald's got its start in the 1940s. Inspired by the efficiency of producing a limited number of menu items with a focus on quality, Ray Kroc The first McDonald's franchise restaurant opened its doors in Des Plaines, Illinois, in 1955.
It wasn't long before other popular fast food restaurants started popping up. Burger King and Taco Bell got started in the 1950s. Wendy's first opened its doors in 1969.
One feature of modern fast food restaurants familiar to most children today is the drive-through window. The first restaurant to feature a drive-through with a two-way speaker system is considered to be In-N-Out Burger, a popular California franchise that opened in 1948.
Today, fast food restaurants are extremely common. In some populated areas, you may see them on every single street corner. Experts estimate the United States alone has over 300,000 fast food restaurants. The industry as a whole accounts for billions of dollars in sales worldwide each year.