HOME > Chowhound > Food Media & News >
Brewing beer, curing meat, or making cheese? Share your food adventure

Boston lowest in fast food consumption

BobB Jul 21, 2011 01:32 PM

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: http://money.bundle.com/article/fast-...

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

  1. c
    CarolinaGirl06 Jul 22, 2011 05:32 AM

    I'm not anti-fast food. Yes, it's generally unhealthy, but honestly, I trust the nutrition info from McDonald's or Wendy's way more than I trust it from, say, Panera (which has huge signs boasting their healthy eating accolades, which I do not understand...).

    Anyhow, I moved here from a more fast food reliant place. (Of course, when you've got Chick-fil-a and Bojangles, it's way more tempting....) What I've noticed about Boston fast food is that the experience usually sucks. It's more expensive here than other places I've been, the ordering experience is disorganized and hectic, usually there's uncomfortable vibe in the seating area, and it's not like you can go through a drive through and take your McNuggets to go. You don't really want to stand in the street eating a Baconator, but there's nothing appealing about sitting down inside for it either. The traditional model doesn't really work here, which I think at least partly figures into the lack of fast food.

    1. tatsu Jul 21, 2011 09:37 PM

      Ah, people around here are too cheap to eat out and go to Walmart.

      3 Replies
      1. re: tatsu
        threedogs Jul 21, 2011 11:28 PM

        What? Don't you know you can combine your eating out AND going to Walmart - and do your food shopping, too? McD's, mega-food land... what was that animated film about the future & everyone was obese & never walked? Forgot the name.. so.. prophetic..

        1. re: threedogs
          tamerlanenj Jul 22, 2011 03:07 AM

          Wall E.

          1. re: tamerlanenj
            threedogs Jul 22, 2011 04:33 AM

            Thank you. Brain doesn't like to work sometimes. Like to give it a day off now & then, anyway...

      2. i
        InmanSQ Girl Jul 21, 2011 04:35 PM

        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
          almansa Jul 21, 2011 05:16 PM

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

        2. almansa Jul 21, 2011 02:12 PM

          What if they had included Dunkin' Donuts?

          6 Replies
          1. re: almansa
            Jenny Ondioline Jul 21, 2011 02:15 PM

            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
              almansa Jul 21, 2011 02:29 PM

              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: Jenny Ondioline
                Guinness02122 Jul 22, 2011 06:10 AM

                Oops, forgot Sebastians

              2. re: almansa
                Bob Dobalina Jul 21, 2011 02:16 PM

                Last to first!

                1. re: almansa
                  BobB Jul 22, 2011 05:00 AM

                  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
                    Guinness02122 Jul 22, 2011 06:09 AM

                    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. jgg13 Jul 21, 2011 01:57 PM

                    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. Science Chick Jul 21, 2011 01:50 PM

                      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
                        threedogs Jul 21, 2011 11:25 PM

                        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. e
                        emannths Jul 21, 2011 01:42 PM

                        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
                          quirkydeb Jul 21, 2011 01:49 PM

                          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
                            viperlush Jul 21, 2011 01:51 PM

                            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
                              tamerlanenj Jul 21, 2011 01:52 PM

                              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 King...hmmm...one 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 Bell...one 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
                                Jenny Ondioline Jul 21, 2011 02:07 PM

                                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
                                  steinpilz Jul 21, 2011 02:20 PM

                                  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
                                    pasuga Jul 21, 2011 08:17 PM

                                    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
                                      jgg13 Jul 21, 2011 08:20 PM

                                      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
                                      emily Jul 25, 2011 09:17 AM

                                      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
                                      BobB Jul 21, 2011 01:53 PM

                                      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
                                        emannths Jul 21, 2011 02:04 PM

                                        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
                                          Jenny Ondioline Jul 21, 2011 02:12 PM

                                          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
                                            tamerlanenj Jul 21, 2011 03:20 PM

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

                                            5 White St, Cambridge, MA 02140

                                      2. re: emannths
                                        threedogs Jul 21, 2011 11:23 PM

                                        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
                                          xo_kizzy_xo Jul 25, 2011 04:48 AM

                                          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.

                                        Show Hidden Posts