Fast food: big business that’s only getting bigger

By Kelly Martinez

Would it surprise you to learn that in the United States alone there are 197,653 fast food restaurants that collectively generated $296.6 billion in revenue in 2021? That revenue jumps to $797.7 billion on a global level.

In 2019, U.S. fast food revenue reached a then all-time high of $295.9 billion only to see a dip in 2020 to $256 billion due to the COVID-19 pandemic. As stated above, the industry bounced back in 2021 to another all-time high and if the upward trend continues, will probably do it again in 2022.

Considering that the industry generated $209.4 billion in 2011, the gradual climb in revenue is pretty amazing. Looking around Utah County, it seems the trend is going to continue as you don’t have to look far to find a “coming-soon” fast food advertisement.

So what is it that’s so appealing about fast food? Aside from convenience you might be hard-pressed to come up with a good trait. Sure, fast food can be tasty, but what about nutritional value? Fast food is some of the least-nutritional grub out there, but yet we continue to patronize these establishments.

Okay, let’s leave the nutritional aspect of fast food for another article. How about we focus on the consistency and customer service aspects of the industry?

Have you ever gone to a fast food restaurant expecting a tasty favorite only to get your meal and realize the meat was overcooked or that the portion was more of a snack size? Or that a favorite ingredient was left out?

Yeah. That’s happened to me a lot, too.

Unless you’re eating at the restaurant, correcting the mistake is more of a hassle on a drive-thru or takeout basis, so many of us just shrug our shoulders and dig in anyway.

If you think about it, why do so many people pay increasing prices for food prepared by people who you can’t even see in a kitchen that you have no idea about its cleanliness and sanitation?

Consistency is another issue to consider about the fast food industry. Customers should be able to expect the exact same product from visit to visit, but that’s not the case. For example, if you go to a fast food restaurant during a dinner rush, chances are high that the food is going to be prepared in a rushed fashion, increasing the possibility of mistakes. That hearty dish you had at the same restaurant last week might be half the size with less of the tasty stuff this time around.

These inconsistencies are commonplace enough that you probably know exactly what I’m talking about. But yet, we continue to flood fast food establishments instead of putting forth the effort to make something to eat at home.

My intent is not to shame anybody for eating fast food. I’ve done it too often in my own life to cast any stones. On occasion, however, I do wonder why, for the aforementioned reasons, we put so much faith in the fast food industry when there is so much wrong with it.

For now, it seems the fast food industry is only going to get bigger. Maybe there will be a day when we collectively come to our senses and rely less on fast food and more on our ability to make something tastier—and better for us—at home.

Until then, please pull forward for your total at the window.

Kelly Martinez
Kelly Martinez
Kelly Martinez is a graduate of Utah Valley University who has written for a variety of publications, including the Los Angeles Times, USA Today, and the Deseret News. He got his start covering sports and has expanded his writing to cover many topics. His company, Señor Write Inc., provides the platform for him to produce several types of writing.

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