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Study of Fast Food Industry

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Overview of Fast Food

Contrary to popular belief, fast food is not a modern invention. The idea of fast food is as old as 2000 years old, although it was not known by that name then. The term 'fast food' only gained recognition in 1951 when it was published in a dictionary by Merriam-Webster. Ancient Rome, however, had several street stands that served bread and wine.

Fast food, in general, refers to any food that can be prepared and served very quickly or in a short time. While any meal that can be prepared in a short span of time can be considered to be fast food, the term typically refers to food that is sold in a restaurant or store with pre-heated or pre-cooked ingredients. This food is served to the customer in a packaged form.

Fast food outlets may be stands or kiosks, which may or may not provide shelter or seating arrangement. Outlets could also be restaurants, which are also known as quick service restaurants. In many countries, fast food is served by individual vendors operating from a cart or a motor vehicle. Some examples are bhel puri vendors in Mumbai, hot dog stands in New York and falafel stands in the Middle-East.

Fast food outlets are take-away or take-out providers, often with a "drive-through" service which allows customers to order and pick up food from their cars; but most also have a seating area in which customers can eat the food on the premises.

Nearly from its inception, fast food has been designed to be eaten "on the go", often does not require traditional cutlery, and is eaten as a finger food. Common menu items at fast food outlets include fish and chips, sandwiches, pitas, hamburgers, fried chicken, french fries, chicken nuggets, pizza, hot dogs, and ice cream, although many fast food restaurants offer "slower" foods like chili, mashed potatoes, and salads.

Filling stations

Many petrol/gas stations have convenience stores which sell pre-packaged sandwiches, doughnuts, and hot food. Many gas stations in the United States and Europe also sell frozen foods and have microwaves on the premises in which to prepare them.

Street vendors and concessions

Traditional street food is available around the world, usually from small operators and independent vendors operating from a cart, table, portable grill or motor vehicle. Common examples include Vietnamese noodle vendors, Middle Eastern falafel stands, New York City hot dog carts, and taco trucks. Commonly, street vendors provide a colorful and varying range of options designed to quickly captivate passers-by and attract as much attention as possible.

Depending on the locale, multiple street vendors may specialize in specific types of food characteristic of a given cultural or ethnic tradition. In some cultures, it is typical for street vendors to call out prices, sing or chant sales-pitches, play music, or engage in other forms of "street theatrics" in order to engage prospective customers. In some cases, this can garner more attention than the food itself; some vendors represent another form of tourist attraction.

The United States has the largest fast food industry in the world. The capital requirements involved in opening up a non-franchised fast food restaurant are relatively low. Restaurants with much higher sit-in ratios, where customers tend to sit and have their orders brought to them in a seemingly more upscale atmosphere may be known in some areas as fast casual restaurants.

Global Fast Food Industry

When people think of fast food, most of them think about traditional American fast food like burgers and fries. However, these foods make up only a small section of fast foods. In reality, every country in the world has its own fast food.

With over 200,000 restaurants and $120 billion in sales in the United States alone, the fast food sector is one of the largest segments in the food industry. Some of the behemoths in this industry are McDonald's, Burger King and Hardee's. The recession proved to be a good time for the fast food industry as people shifted from dining at restaurants to fast foods. In the UK, the fast food industry increased its presence by more than 8% in 2009. Domino's and Subway were the biggest gainers. Another factor for the growth of this industry is the busier lifestyles of consumers.

However, it is not smooth sailing for the fast food industry. People today are becoming more health conscious. Fast food chains have responded to this challenge by introducing healthier varieties. Another challenge is the rising food and energy prices, which have dampened the growth of the global fast food industry since 2006. Industry players have navigated through this difficulty with varying degrees of success. While McDonald's has seen success in emerging markets, Domino's aims to turn its fortunes around by switching to a new marketing campaign.

In 2006, the global fast food market grew by 4.8% and reached a value of 102.4 billion and a volume of 80.3 billion transactions. In India alone the fast food industry is growing by 41% a year.

The Fast Food Industry In India

As the lifestyle of Indians has changed over the years, so has the fast food industry in the country. Because of these changes, India's fast food industry has witnessed rapid growth.

One of the biggest changes that the Indian fast food industry has seen is the reduction in the processing and delivery time of a dish. For example, meals that required an attendant to serve the customer are now easily served across the counter.

The diversity of Indian cuisine brings its own set of problems. However, restaurants and outlets have come up with innovative solutions to this problem. Different dishes are served at different counters within the same restaurant or outlet. Dishes may also be served depending on the time of the day. Since India is home to a large vegetarian population, several vegetarian restaurants have come up to cater to their needs.

Most fast food businesses in India have some of the following features in common:

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