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Jul 21, 2011 01:32 PM

Boston lowest in fast food consumption

We must be doing something right! This article from Bundle analyzed spending data from 100 cities in the US and ranked them in amounts spent at the major fast food chains - specifically, McDonald's, Wendy's, Kentucky Fried Chicken, Taco Bell, Subway, Pizza Hut, Arby's and Burger King.

They then ranked all 100 and found that Boston came in dead (or is that live?) last, #100 out of 100 cities surveyed, spending 92% less than the national average on fast food.

The full list, 1 to 100, is here:

Thanks to the Globe's Dishing column for spotting this.

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  1. Interesting. I'd be curious to see the numbers normalize on a per-location basis or something. It seems like Boston just doesn't have many McDonald's, Wendy's, KFC, Taco Bell, Subway, Pizza Hut, Arby's, and Burger King.

    14 Replies
    1. re: emannths

      I agree. Plus it has lots of other, non-fast food options. I noticed that a lot of the cities with low fast food consumption seemed to be larger (or more metropolitan, if that makes sense); I suspect those cities have a more varied population that makes speedy, but non-fast food food.

      1. re: emannths

        Maybe there are fewer locations here because we are the lowest in fast food consumption? If they want to raise our consumption they need to start building!

        1. re: emannths

          Yes, if we are talking Boston Proper, then only Subway seems like a major presence. For McDonald's I can think of Kenmore Square, Downtown Crossing, one in the Fenway on Boylston I think, and one in Chinatown....Wendy's, I can only think of Copley and Downtown Crossing....Pizza Hut is nonexistent AFAIK. Arby's?? I'm not even sure if that exists in all of MA. Burger in Brighton, one in Copley...I'm sure there are a few others. Used to be one in BU East but it closed, as did the McDonald's in BU West. I can't think of a single Taco in Central Square near Koreana I think, but I'm only counting Boston proper. There is a KFC in Brighton...maybe that has a Taco Bell too. The one on Comm AVe in BU central closed down.

          So, no, it is not necessarily easy to find these places in Boston.

          Good thing they didn't include Popeye's because I was definitely a guilty partaker of the Kenmore locaion!

          154 Prospect Street, Cambridge, MA 02139

          1. re: tamerlanenj

            There's an Arby's out in Chicopee -- I have an unapologetic love for their potato cakes, so I make a point to swing by if I'm out that way.

            There's a McDonald's and a Wendy's on Mass Ave near Berklee, a McDonald's in Allston Village (dunno if the one on Soldiers Field Road is technically in Brighton or Watertown, but I think it's Brighton), a KFC in Union Square Allston, and one of those combo Long John Silvers/Taco Bells on the VFW Parkway heading towards Dedham. Only Pizza Huts I know of are out in the burbs.

            My assumption has always been that Boston rents eat into the profit margin too much.

            1. re: tamerlanenj

              There's a McDonalds across from Quincy Market and a Taco Bell at Cambridgeside Galleria (the one on Walnut in Newton shut down).

              1. re: tamerlanenj

                I remember - this is years ago so I don't know if it's valid anymore - my brother worked for Proctor & Gamble. He said they always tried marketing their new food products in New England first because the folks here were more conservative about trying new things and if it sold here it would sell in the rest of the US.

                Have always been sorry A&W never made it here. Hot days like this a root beer float would be spot-on.

                1. re: pasuga

                  This is up there with being a primary nuclear strike target and an alternative emergency landing site for the space shuttle in terms of stories I've heard every area of the country make as a claim. These days I just figure it's all just urban legend.

                2. re: tamerlanenj

                  Yes, I remember as a student at Harvard (and a teenage transplant from CA who occasionally wanted some Taco Bell) we had to take the T all the way to BU to get any Taco Bell! Which only happened once in my 7 years of living in Cambridge and Boston.

                3. re: emannths

                  But that's a chicken-and-egg thing - are there fewer fast food outlets per capita here because there are fewer people interested in patronizing them (or at least patronizing them less often)?

                  1. re: BobB

                    Absolutely, which is why looking at the data in other ways (like on a per-location basis) might help explain why Boston has such low consumption.

                    Some towns use zoning and licensing laws to make it hard or impossible for national chains to open locations. Does anyone know if that's a factor in Boston?

                    1. re: emannths

                      If anything the opposite is true! Boston zoning and licensing is very chain-friendly. Menino's critics often use the phrase "Framingham-by-the-Sea" to describe Mumbles' grand vision for the city.

                      1. re: Jenny Ondioline

                        Yes, we certainly have more than our fair share of Qdobas

                        5 White St, Cambridge, MA 02140

                  2. re: emannths

                    We have competition for them: independent restaurants, many small, mom & pop type places. Many areas of the US don't have as much. Of course, I have no idea if this theory is true - my only experience was w/Tucson. Ugh. For me, it was as much as a desert food-wise as the Sonora Museum (which, oddly enough, is actually a natural park). I imagine Chandler is the same.

                    1. re: emannths

                      We don't :nodding: You'll find some of those chains in the suburbs, though. The BK near me is usually empty. I often wonder how it manages to stay in business.

                    2. Very cool! If you look at the list of 100 cities, you'll notice that the bottom of the list is all the cities with dense availability of high quality food and "fast food" from independent purveyors (NYC, DC, Philly, San Francisco, etc).

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: Science Chick

                        Yep. I do NOT want to be in a food waste-land again, lol. Hate fast food. Well, duh - that's why I'm here on Chowhound.

                      2. This makes me feel bad for having BK at lunch today.

                        Actually, having had BK for lunch is what is making feel bad, but ....

                        1. What if they had included Dunkin' Donuts?

                          6 Replies
                          1. re: almansa

                            Heh. I once killed time waiting for a bus by calculating how many Dunks were within walking distance of my house. Including the stands inside supermarkets and gas stations, I lost count around 15.

                            1. re: Jenny Ondioline

                              When they announced another new one near my house I did a store locator on their website. Within 2.75 miles there are 22.

                                1. re: almansa

                                  Good point. They couldn't, of course, or they'd have to have included every local and regional chain - the ones they picked are all truly national.

                                  But how many people get lunch or dinner at a Dunkin? I've rarely set foot in one after 10AM myself.

                                  1. re: almansa

                                    Dunkin' Donuts, D'Angelo's, Quizno's, Rebecca's, Chipotle, Au Bon Pain, Bruegger's, Panera Bread seem to hot spots in the Financial District. Sal's Pizza seems to be coming on strong.

                                  2. While fun to see, Boston's lowest ranking has more to do with the viability of certain foodservice business models than Bostonians' presumed healthier / more refined eating habits. All the lowest cities on this list have a high and dense enough population with a high enough percentage of ethnic diversity to support a thriving independant "fast-food" / ethnic food market. Instead of McDonalds, Bostonians are buying cheap burritos, pizza, Pho, Bah Mi, Brazilian buffet, etc. from a sleu of independant eatieres that are just as fast and unhealthy as their franchised fast food counterparts, just without the stigma. Same for NYC, San Fran, Phili, Detroit, and all the other major cities at the bottom.

                                    We don't build more McD's and Wendy's here because we all can get a cheap, filling, fast, unhealthy meals from local places that simply taste better. With all these easy access alternatives with meals that are $1-$2 difference from the FF chains but have massive improvements in flavor, there's just no appeal.

                                    1 Reply
                                    1. re: InmanSQ Girl

                                      Ditto - and Philly is near the bottom 'cause everyone's snacking on greasy meat and processed cheese sandwiches on white bread.