Fast Food in the Fifties

by admin - November 14th, 2013

With the now widespread use of the automobile, it seemed that everything started to become optimized for cars and ease of use with them. A large part of any country’s culture is their food. It is certainly true that food, and how Americans got it; was now catering to a nation of automobiles. This led to the rise of fast food, and subsequently less frequent usage of sit down restaurants. The fifties were the first decade to see the introduction of drive-thru windows and the first to experience the chain fast food restaurants.

Undoubtedly the largest contributor to the rise of the fast food industry was McDonalds. Still the most popular fast food restaurant of today, it is no surprise that the restaurant chain was so successful. Never before could a person get a hamburger, fries and a shake at a low price without even having to get out of their car. “The McDonald brothers, Dick and Maurice, began their first drive-in restaurant in San Bernardino, California, in 1940. Recognizing that Americans wanted to eat quickly, they began to streamline their operation to meet that demand. They cut their menu to nine items, concentrating on hamburgers, cheeseburgers, fries, and shakes. They developed machines to prepare these items in identical proportions. They trimmed the size of their hamburgers, squeezing ten out of a pound of ground beef instead of the traditional eight. They dispensed condiments in premeasured doses, saving space, time, and cleanup over competitors whose customers spread their own mustard.” (Dunar 171-172) This very clearly reflects the mentality of America, as they wanted to get their food and get out. The popularity of fast food restaurants like these very clearly skyrocketed. McDonalds restaurants had a sort of tally, such as “hundreds of thousands served” which very quickly changed to “millions served”, and now today’s iconic “billions of billions served” lies under the golden arches.

After seeing the success of McDonalds, its not surprising that many other restaurants began to cater to the automobile industry and began to follow in the “assembly line” method of production of their food. “Kroc developed a ‘Multimixer’ that could mix five shakes at once.” (Dunar 172) Doing so allowed companies to spit out food at a rate, and quality never seen before. By also keeping proportions and a rigid quality control, it allowed companies to keep the prices of their food at an affordable level as well. “Recognizing that his principal market was the family, Kroc sought to keep his hamburgers affordable; the price of a burger was kept at fifteen cents for more than a decade.” (Dunar 172).

With the rise of these fast food chains, a level of convenience that was never seen before was attained. The popularity of these restaurants undoubtedly came from the fact that people could now get a meal, usually in less than a minute that tasted good, and at a reasonable price. Unfortunately, with the benefits came the drawbacks as well. These restaurants focused primarily on serving very unhealthy foods with a very high fat content. Everything was typically fried in order to speed up the cooking. By doing so, it is most likely the cause of obesity levels rising, as they were not as prominent before the introduction of fast food.

Fast food was an important piece of the Fifties in the fact that in revolutionized the way that people ate. Families were not much less likely to sit down and have a home cooked meal when they could go out to a burger joint and enjoy a tasty, quick and easy meal at an affordable price. This was a major change that America had gone through, and the convenience of these fast food joints are still being heavily taken advantage of today.

— Tom B.

One Response to “Fast Food in the Fifties”

  1. Amanda Priest says:

    I think it is interesting that fast food places gained such popularity over the years because they have caused more damage than many realize. Not only are these restaurant extremely unhealthy, but they also have corrupted the meaning of a meal. A meal is something to be appreciated, and it is important to relax and spend time with your family while enjoying food together. In the fifties, people were so caught up in the flexibility and quickness of fast food restaurants that they began visiting them more and more. Today, people are alway so busy with work and school, and eating has become something that takes up time that we do not have. I think these factors helped contribute to the growth in popularity of fast food restaurant like McDonalds.