Friday, April 25, 2008

The Evolution of the Quick Service Restaurant


The Quick Service Restaurant responds to the universal desire for inexpensive and reliable fare that is freshly prepared, portable and ready on demand.

People were finding ways to escape the dinner table long before the 4th Earl of Sandwich wrapped dried meat in bread c. 1762 so as not to interrupt his work or his gambling (accounts vary). Cornish pasties and their descendants go back at least as far as the 13th century; the South Asian samosa is believed to date to the tenth century.

In 1867, Charles Feltman, a German butcher, opened up the first Coney Island hot dog stand in Brooklyn, New York, though the origin of the term is in dispute. The World's Columbian Exposition of 1893 (Chicago) and the St. Louis World's Fair of 1904 are credited with mass promotion of a number of portable foods, including the hot dog, the ice cream cone and iced tea.


The "diner" concept dates back to 1872, when Walter Scott of Providence, RI outfitted a horse-drawn lunch wagon with a simple kitchen so that he could bring hot dinners to workers.
As automobiles became popular and affordable following the First World War, drive-in restaurants were introduced.

Walter Anderson built the first White Castle in Wichita, KS in 1916, introducing the limited menu, high volume, low cost, high speed hamburger restaurant. Partnering with Billy Ingram in 1921, they formed the first hamburger chain. Featuring a grill and a fryer that was open to customers' viewing, the restaurants were designed to build confidence in the notion that low cost could coincide with high product quality.
A and W Root Beer took its product out of the soda fountain and into a roadside stand in 1919 and began franchising its syrup in 1921. Howard Johnson pioneered the concept of franchising restaurants in the mid-1930's, formally standardizing menus, signage and advertising.

Wichita, KS was the home of another fast food innovation, the "Valentine Diner", a portable steel sandwich shop introduced by Arthur Valentine in 1938. Valentines could be purchased with a low down payment and financed through a lock box into which the owner was to deposit 50 cents daily. Circuit riders stopped by monthly to collect this fee; deadbeats discovered that their wagons had been hauled away.

Curb service was introduced in the late 1920's and was mobilized in the 1940's when carhops strapped on roller skates. The term "fast-food" was coined in 1951, the same year t
he drive-through window and speaker system was introduced to chain restaurants by Jack-in-the-Box in San Diego, CA.

It is interesting to note that the fast food leader, McDonald's, did not embrace the drive-through window until 1975. It now accounts for approximately 60% of sales.

See Honk for Service by Lou Ellen Mcginley with Stephanie Spurr (Tray Days Publishing, 2004).

For more information see Retail Lifecycle Management.

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A Management Consultant @ Large

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