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How do you define "fast food"?

While McDonald's is the immediate definition that pops into my head defining what fast food is (I guess similar to the regional tendancy of calling all sodas Coke) - I don't really know what I would/would not include. Is Chipolte fast food? Does fast food need to be a franchise or chain, or would a privately owned, single location of a drive-through burger joint be fast food? Is this mainly a US/Canada term and when you get overseas definitions change?

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  1. Fast food means a walk up and order counter and no table service.

    1 Reply
    1. re: bbqboy

      It can be a hybrid.
      Here in Southern CT there is a local fast food chain called Duchess. It looks and operates on a McDs model with counter service, drive-thru and fill your own soda/soffee. BUT except for Fries being ready in the bin and hot dogs sitting on the flat top, burgers, sandwiches and meals are cooked to order.
      There are about 14-15 locations and some franchises serve meals on ceramic dishes, which the customer must bus and place in dish bins, some only use paper wrappers an foam plates (for cooked meals). Most call ot your order number for pick up when ready, but a couple (such as Shelton) deliver your order to you table if your eat in.

      There advertising slogan: Not fast food, but fresh food fast.

      Still in all, I and most loals consider these as fast food restaurants.

      http://duchessrestaurants.com/

    2. I think of fast food as a place where you order, pay and get food at a counter, then bus your own table. Doesn't matter if there is a or isn't a drive thru window, one location or a thousand. There are gray areas. It's like porn, I know it when I see it.

      5 Replies
        1. re: carolinadawg

          That pretty much nails it as a description for me. I also know it when I see it, better than I can describe it.

          1. re: carolinadawg

            And I know it when I smell it. The smell that's still in your car the next
            day when you drive to work. That's when you remember that there's
            something very wrong about fast food.

            1. re: jinet12

              Reminds me of the high school prom, without the fast food.

            2. re: carolinadawg

              As others said, you pretty much nail the definition I know as well.

            3. Like everyone is saying, except that cafeterias, buffets, etc. aren't usually thought of as fast food joints.

              1 Reply
              1. re: John Francis

                Now, buffets are definitely the exception to that.

              2. To the "no table service" I would also add that the food is not made to order...that's why I think of cafeterias as fast food.

                1. Food is pre-prepared and pre-packaged, not prepared to order, thus service of food is "fast".

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: FrankJBN

                    Then by your standards, McDs, BK and Wendys are NOT Fast Food?????
                    The food is already cooked, BUt not ackaged until you order it. Especially BK-'Have it your way' who dresses the burger to order McD assembles your sandwich as you order, as oppoed to items such as a Sausage burrito which is porepackaged. But a Sausage McMuffin order will have the assembler pulling an English Muffin, then a suasage patty from a pastic warming drawer, slapping on a slice orange 'cheez' and wrapping in paper.