- Historic Sites
It began with a few people trying to get hamburgers from grill to customer quicker and cheaper. Now it’s changed the way Americans live. And whether you like it or hate it, once you get on the road you’ll eat it.
April 1988 | Volume 39, Issue 3
When I was ten, my brother was accepted into a college in Kansas. My parents decided to drive him out from New Jersey, using the opportunity to show both of us the countryside as we went. The year was 1963.
Because we were on a budget, we normally ate at Howard Johnson’s restaurants. This was fine with me. I was allowed to order the same thing at every meal: a turkey club sandwich with a strawberry milk shake. My brother, more adventurous, ate clams whenever he found them on the menu, never giving a thought to the fact that we were squarely in the center of the country, a thousand miles in either direction from salt water.
But those meals are indistinct in memory. The meal I recall most vividly from that trip was a lunch we had somewhere in eastern Kansas. My father, tearing along the highway at the approved speed of eighty miles an hour, spotted a pair of golden arches rising above one of the few hills we encountered in an entire day of driving.
Now the next thing he said may seem remarkable, but keep in mind that it was 1963. Tapping his foot on the brake to release our Buick’s Cruise-amatic, he veered off the highway and rocketed down the small ramp onto what would, I suppose, eventually become a strip of fast-food restaurants. Cutting off a slower-moving vehicle, he turned into a McDonald’s parking lot and switched off the engine. “Let’s try some regional food,” he said.
The outcome was predictable. My brother and I loved the food, my father enjoyed the price, and my mother knitted. Apparently she and my father held a conference out of our hearing sometime later in the day, because try as we might, we could never get my father to stop at McDonald’s again. We resumed eating at Howard Johnson’s, where the food was a little more expensive, but the quality was, according to my mother, “guaranteed.” Nevertheless, we believed for years afterward that we had discovered McDonald’s before any of our neighbors and that we had the inside dope on the chain springing up from Kansas, where the beef was doubtless cheaper.
I don’t mean to give the impression that we had never eaten a hamburger on the cheap before. For years we frequented a place called Hamburger Junction, where the menus, and meals, were sent around the counter on a Lionel train. The interior of Hamburger Junction was standard for its time: a Formica counter, orange stools, black metal napkin cartridges, and a jukebox selector, stationed between each pair of stools, with a small dial on top that turned the song lists. Although Hamburger Junction’s addition of a toy train was novel, the architecture and interior furnishings were not distinguishable from countless diners along other highways. Neither was its menu. The items were cleverly named—B&O Burgers, Choo-Choo Colas—but they were essentially what you could order in any other diner. It was possible to get eggs and French toast. It was possible to get pot roast and mashed potatoes, complete with gravy and string beans.
The differences, however, between our meal at McDonald’s and Hamburger Junction are more profound than one might think at first glance. Even the smallest details mark a change in the American conception of “fast food.” For example, it is important to note that typical diner fare of that period was served on plates. Milk shakes were blended in steel cups by machines with spindles, then poured into fountain glasses. Knives and forks, ridiculously supple, accompanied each order. Place mats describing attractions in the local countryside were slipped under each table setting. The result was a meal that vaguely resembled dinner at a family table. The food might be poorly prepared or erratic in quality, but the goal of many restaurants, even down to their advertising, was to make the dinner seem “home cooked.”
Fast food, as we have come to think of it, was anything but home-cooked. Fast food was, and is, designed for travel, for consumption out of the house, for people too busy to linger over a slower-paced restaurant meal. In many cases our cars became our restaurants. The homey touches, indeed even such amenities as indoor seating, were often conspicuously absent. What we now perceive as a normal fast-food serving system—paper cups, styrofoam hamburger containers, even paper bags—were a unique experiment in the McDonald brothers’ restaurant in 1948. Forty years later it is not even a matter of thought to eat french fries with our fingers, add ketchup from plastic capsules, pour milk shakes from quick-drawing machines.
What the chains offered—and it was a wholly new thing—was predictable quality.
But the phenomenon goes far beyond a change in eating habits. The food at Hamburger Junction was pretty good; but it might have been swill, and there would have been no way for the newcomer to know that until the plate was put down in front of him. For years, of course, the bromide had it that one should “eat where the truckers eat”: at best, an erratic barometer of food quality. What the fast food chains offered—and it was an entirely new thing—was a predictable level of sanitation, service, and quality. The fortunes of the fast-food industry rose on this tide of assurance: you knew that whether you were entering a restaurant in Sante Fe or Bangor, you were going to get exactly the same meal. It is this standardization that most impresses foreign visitors when they are confronted with McDonald’s or Burger King, and it is the reflection of a particularly American kind of industrial genius.
It may have started in 1921 at the Royce Hailey’s Pig Stand in Dallas when drivers began pulling up for barbecued sandwiches. Doubtless it started with cars, a population pushing out of the cities into the suburbs, and a volume business based on large production at minimal costs: hamburger factories with retail outlets. Tracking down the earliest restaurants, however, is a formidable exercise in genealogy. Dunkin’ Donuts begot Mister Donut, which then begot Tastee Donut. White Castle sired White Diamond, Royal Castle, and White Crest. Some of the names give themselves over to chants: Taco Bell and Taco Tico, Taco Villa, and Tico Taco. The burger dynasty has maintained a somewhat bovine sound, not unlike cow bells gently clanging on a summer night: Burger King, Burger Chef, Bun & Burger, Wendy’s…Mooooooo. Compare the burger line to the clucking chicken family: Bojangles, Church’s Fried Chicken, Kentucky Fried Chicken, Popeye’s Famous Fried Chicken. In pizza there are the Italian uncles: Godfather’s, Domino’s, Pizza Hut. Presiding over dessert are the married monarchs Dairy King and Dairy Queen and their wicked stepson, Dairy Cheer.
The numbers associated with these restaurants are perhaps even more astonishing than the family tree. A statistical breakdown on McDonald’s alone is an MBA’s dream. John Love, author of McDonald’s: Behind the Arches, gives the following summation:
Ninety-six percent of Americans have eaten at one of the McDonald’s restaurants in the last year; slightly more than half of the U.S. population lives within three minutes of a McDonald’s; McDonald’s has served more than 55 billion hamburgers; McDonald’s commands 17% of all restaurant visits in the U.S. and gets 7.3% of all dollars Americans spent eating out; McDonald’s sells 32% of all hamburgers and 26% of french fries; McDonald’s is the country’s largest beef buyer; it purchases 7.5% of the U.S. potato crop; McDonald’s has employed about 8 million workers—which amounts to approximately 7% of the entire U.S. work force; and McDonald’s has replaced the U.S. Army as America’s largest job training organization.
So that you know what you missed, I should mention that a block of a hundred shares of McDonald’s stock bought when the company went public two decades ago is now worth around $400,000. The original cost was $2,250.
But the numbers only hint at the impact fast-food restaurants have had on our country. If you want to know what the fast-food industry really means, ask the next ten-year-old you meet where he’d like to eat if given his choice. Walk past a construction site in New York City around noon and note what the workers are eating for lunch. Check a potato farmer’s invoices and track down his biggest client. Ask the farmer how egg production received a boom with the introduction of McDonald’s Egg McMuffins and Burger King’s Bagel Sandwiches, or what it meant to the chicken industry when McDonald’s began serving Chicken McNuggets. Visit a quick-serve restaurant early in the morning and stay for breakfast. Finally, close your eyes right now and confess, honestly, how many fast-food jingles you can hum. If you can’t hum at least two or three, you’ve probably been unplugged for the past ten years.
For my money, the true fast-food boom—the light bulb switching on to mark a pioneering idea—began on a tennis court located on one side of the McDonald brothers’ San Bernardino house. The brothers, Maurice and Richard, were transplants from New Hampshire to California. They had already founded a successful restaurant that catered to the booming region surrounding San Bernardino in the 1940s. Housed in a shiny octagonal building with glass sides, the McDonald brothers had established an extremely well-run car hop restaurant. The parking lot was crowded daily. Teen-agers flocked to McDonald’s, as did the older lunch crews working on projects around the area. The McDonald brothers had become wealthy, not fabulously so, but rich enough to acquire a new Cadillac each year, a ninety-thousand-dollar mansion, and tickets to local boxing matches. Annual sales topped two hundred thousand dollars.
But the McDonalds began to sense the limitations of their restaurant. Car hop service was becoming increasingly burdensome. The turnover rate in their work force was accelerating. Not only were they being pressured by competitors copying their operation, but they were also forced to compete against other industries for employees. Moreover, because the typical car hop was young and naturally attracted an adolescent clientele, the theft of knives and forks was driving up their operational costs.
In the fall of 1948 the brothers made a bold move. Risking their entire operation, they closed the restaurant for three months in order to overhaul the business. They fired the car hops. The windows formerly used by car hops to fill orders were converted to self-serve windows where customers could place their own orders. The kitchen was streamlined; the standard three-foot grill gave way to two six-foot grills custom-built by a Los Angeles kitchen supply company. Paper products replaced plates and flatware, thereby eliminating the need for a dishwasher. The menu was cut back from twenty-five items to nine: cheeseburgers, hamburgers, three soft-drink flavors, milk, coffee, potato chips, and a slice of pie. The reduced number of menu items limited customer choice and, in turn, made “precooking” possible. Because of the increased speed and volume of sales, the cost of a hamburger plunged from thirty cents to an incredible fifteen.
When the restaurant reopened, business was slow. Nevertheless, the McDonald brothers stuck to their new formula. Within six months their trade had begun to recover. They added milk shakes and french fries to the menu. The real boom, though, came from an unexpected, and up until that time largely untapped, market share: adults and families.
McDonald’s, by getting rid of the car hops, was no longer a “hangout.” Small children, fascinated by the newly honed kitchen techniques and the assembly-line method of making hamburgers, began to ask their parents to take them to McDonald’s. Because of the cost, parents were happy to oblige. Entire lower- and middle-class families were at last able to go out to a restaurant. The price was right, the service was automated, Mom escaped the kitchen, and no one had to be left home to mind the children.
But what about the tennis court?
As early as 1921 E. W. Ingram was selling five-cent hamburgers by the sack.
When it became evident that the new Speedy System, as the brothers were calling it, could revolutionize the industry, they sold their first franchise to Neil Fox, an independent gasoline retailer. Working with an architect named Stanley Meston, they designed a new store. Eventually they got everything to their liking, save for one crucial element. “When I came up with the idea of the so-called Golden Arches and designed them,” Richard McDonald wrote recently, “I could not find an architect who would use them in the building plans. They simply did not like the arches. So finally, George Dexter of the Dexter Sign Co. told me to have an architect leave the arches out of the plans and he would cut a hole in each corner of the roof of the building and lower the arches down through the holes.” The store opened for business, arches and all, in Phoenix in 1953 (and last winter those original arches went on permanent exhibition at the Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn, Michigan).
It was in the design of the new kitchen, however, that the McDonald brothers revealed the depth of their ingenuity. Taking the night crew of their existing restaurant to their home tennis court, they persuaded them to go through the motions of making hamburgers. While the crew members pantomimed the routine of making burgers, shakes, and fries, the brothers followed them, marking in red chalk exactly where the kitchen equipment should be placed for maximum efficiency. They finished at 3:00 A.M. and knocked off for the night. The draftsman who had been hired to transcribe the plan to paper said he would get on it first thing the next morning. Unfortunately a rain came up and washed away the entire outline, leaving only a muddled red mess.
But I still think the true beginning of the fast-food industry is encapsulated in the image of the crew moving through the night, making imaginary hamburgers. It combines many of the crucial elements that were to spread throughout the fast-food industry: attention to detail, emphasis on speed and efficiency, a vision of the future, and a wonderful dose of pure whimsy.
As has happened in many industries, the McDonald brothers only refined ideas that were already in existence. As early as 1921 a Wichita, Kansas, man named E. W. Ingram served a five-cent hamburger and encouraged customers to buy them by the sack. The hamburgers were served with fried onions; the hamburger itself was steam-fried. He called the restaurant White Castle. The hamburgers caught on, and in a few years his restaurant chain had spread to eleven states. Capitalizing on Ingram’s success and company name, competing owners opened up restaurants called White Tower or Royal Castle.
But the White Castle restaurants were not geared to truly fast service. They typically included counter seating with a two-person staff to perform all functions in the restaurant: cooking, cleaning, and ringing up bills. Their clientele tended to be male, a fact that reduced the customer pool significantly. White Castles did not—as McDonald’s was to do so successfully later—find a way to make their restaurants family-oriented. White Castles were often referred to in those early days as “truck stops,” even though many were located in urban centers.
A&W appeared in 1924. The name was derived from the initials of its founders, Allen and White. A&W was based on a single product: Alien and White’s root beer syrup. It did not begin serving food until much later, a fact that eventually spelled the chain’s decline.
Though A&W is not a thriving chain today, it is still noted for its earliest franchises—the ones in Washington, D. C., where J. Willard Marriott got his start in the restaurant business. By 1928 Marriott had changed the name of his A&W stands to Hot Shoppe, forming a restaurant chain specializing in barbecue sandwiches. The sandwiches proved popular. The profits Marriott realized on the Hot Shoppes served as the foundation for the Marriott Corporation, one of America’s largest hotel chains.
The path followed by Marriott was one Howard Johnson had already traveled. In 1925 Johnson scraped together five hundred dollars and invested it in a money-losing drugstore located in Quincy, Massachusetts. The drugstore contained a soda fountain, but the previous owner had served only three flavors of ice cream, all purchased from a local supplier. Johnson decided the ice cream was not rich enough for his clientele, so he set about producing a blend that doubled the butterfat content common in ice cream at the time. Working in his basement with a hand ice-cream maker, he came up with a product that soon had customers lined up. Riding on his success, he quickly added hot dogs and hamburgers to the menu. What started out as a soda fountain gradually expanded into a restaurant.
Others had also turned failing restaurants around, but it was Johnson who brought something wholly new to the game. In 1929 he once again expanded his operation. He opened a second restaurant in Quincy, using the techniques he had refined in the first. With the success of the second restaurant assured, he naturally began thinking of opening more. He would supply them himself from his own food-processing system, above all maintaining the high quality of his ice cream.
The Depression, however, proved formidable. Tight money cut into Johnson’s sales, and made it difficult to expand. Surveying the situation, Johnson decided on a plan that would be followed by every food chain for the next sixty years: he would franchise.
Johnson convinced a restaurant owner on Cape Cod to use the Howard Johnson name and began supplying the new restaurant from his food-processing plant. By supplying the food himself, Johnson was able to maintain quality control while increasing the visibility of his chain. The new restaurant was a success, and more franchisees came forward. Six years later there were twenty-five Howard Johnson restaurants along the East Coast. By 1940 the Howard Johnson chain had expanded to a hundred restaurants, lining the Eastern seaboard. They were linked by a consistency in food quality and by the orange roofs that effectively attracted passing travelers.
Even if Howard Johnson’s did not rely on a true fast-service system for its success (though it would later introduce Ho Jo’s in an unsuccessful attempt to compete with the newer chains), it established a needed precedent when it came to franchising. Investors saw that properly franchised fast-serve restaurants could be big business. Perhaps no one understood this better than Harry Axene, the dominant force behind Dairy Queen.
Axene was on a family visit when he stopped at a Dairy Queen in East Moline, Illinois, in the 1940s. The store was operated by Jim Elliott, but the ice-cream manufacturing process was owned by John McCullough from Davenport, Iowa. McCullough had purchased the rights to the manufacturing process from Harold Oltz, who had invented a five-foot-long cylinder that chilled a liquid dairy mix. By opening a spigot on a machine and gently rotating the cone beneath the flow, the countermen were able to produce a serving in seconds.
McCullough saw potential in soft ice cream, but he did not know how to market it. Axene did. They formed a partnership with the intended purpose of franchising Dairy Queen nationally. To do so, however, they needed backing. With the advice and help of a Chicago ice-cream-cone manufacturer, Axene rounded up twenty-six investors from the ice-cream trade to attend a meeting in a Moline hotel. Axene approached the meeting as a businessman, with extensive charts detailing the potential profits in a typical Dairy Queen franchise. The investors, it turned out, were just as interested in the ice cream. They devoured the samples Axene provided, and Axene realized the product sold itself.
To a man, the investors bit. Some bought territories that covered an entire state. The up-front prices ranged from twenty-five to fifty thousand dollars. Axene also charged each new franchise forty-five cents on every gallon of dairy mix. As a result of the chain’s success, Axene became one of the nation’s first fast-food millionaires virtually overnight.
Pinched by the Depression, Howard Johnson lit on the idea that founded the industry.
The tremendous growth of Dairy Queen was based on several factors besides a popular product. For one thing, the menu was naturally limited. Because no elaborate equipment was required to open a store, the cost of franchising was kept low—only thirty thousand dollars in most cases. The minimal cost, combined with the chance to run one’s own business, held tremendous appeal for the returning GIs of World War II. GI loans were plentiful; the economy was in a growth spurt. By the time Axene moved from Dairy Queen in 1948 to start the Tastee Freeze line with Leo Moranz—on the basis of a purportedly superior freezer and ice-cream process—there were twenty-five hundred Dairy Queen outlets in operation.
On the hamburger front it was Bob Wian and his Big Boy restaurants that began the franchising boom in the late 1930s around California. The key product was a result of serendipity. When a regular customer asked for something different late one night, Wian responded with a hamburger that gave customers “the works”—two hamburger patties served on a triple-deck bun. Soon customers were lined up for a taste, and Wian began selling Big Boy franchises around the country.
In chicken there was only one name: Harlan Sanders. His story is remarkable. In 1952, while he was the owner of a successful service station and restaurant, Sanders met a Utah man named Pete Harmon who was looking for a specialty item to add to the menu at his hamburger stand. The Colonel taught him the secret recipe to his fried chicken, and when he later visited Harmon’s restaurant he had to squeeze through a throng of customers waiting to taste the “Kentucky Fried Chicken” that now accounted for half of Harmon’s business.
On the same day in 1955 that he received his first Social Security check of $105, Sanders auctioned off his property. The business for which he had earlier refused an offer of $164,000 had been ruined by a new interstate highway that diverted traffic seven miles to the west. With unusual tenacity and Harmon’s encouragement, Harlan Sanders took to the road armed with a pressure cooker, eleven herbs and spices, and an idea. He stopped at random restaurants and offered to cook for them if they would consider placing his Southern fried chicken on their menu. Before long Colonel Sanders stopped traveling: the chicken that had been a regional legend in his Kentucky restaurant was attracting restaurant owners to him. Operating his business from an office he built behind his house in Shelbyville, Kentucky, the Colonel with the white suit and goatee had by 1960 sold two hundred franchises, and was selling almost as many again annually.
Where were all these fast-food franchises opening? Consider a parcel of land five miles outside the city limits. You’ve seen thousands of building lots like it: high grass, Queen Anne’s lace, tansy, blue aster, highway litter stuck in the mud, and tire tracks that border the street side of the land. If you were around in the early 1950s, the land might appear to hold little value compared with prime corners within the city’s center. But to the early franchisers such parcels of land were the perfect cribs for their new industry.
The competition was fierce, but the American appetite appeared insatiable. During the 1950s and early 1960s, doughnuts, pizza, fish sticks, spicy chicken, barbecued sandwiches, and Mexican tacos acquired brand names that were almost synonymous with the products themselves. Although it is extraordinary to calculate the amount of food these chains produce and sell, it is perhaps even more extraordinary to think of their use of real estate.
Food franchises changed the face, and character, of American towns. In step with other franchises—True Value, Sears, Midas, Firestone, 7-Eleven, car dealerships of all makes and models, B. Dalton’s, Toys “R” Us, Shell, K Mart, Channel Home Centers, Mobile, Sunoco, Dino’s, Sinclair, Esso, A&P, Food Town, and various movie theaters—fast-food outlets abandoned the towns and claimed the nation’s highways and major roads. The commercial centers of many towns shifted and often all but died. Malls eventually became the focus of Saturday shopping trips, but originally it was underdeveloped highway land, or “strips” as they are sometimes called, that altered the physical makeup of suburban and country life.
The competition was fierce, but the American appetite appeared insatiable.
It is not surprising, therefore, to find that McDonald’s is the world’s largest owner of real estate. It passed Sears in real estate holdings in 1982 and is still growing. If we add to its holdings the real estate owned by the other major food franchises, it’s possible to glimpse the sheer scope of land they control. American towns are dominated, architecturally and in terms of landscape, by fast-food outlets. It is not simply an imagined perception one has when driving down the nation’s highways that the roads are lined with franchises of all descriptions. It is almost more accurate than we can allow ourselves to believe.
The late Ray Kroc, founder of McDonald’s Corporation, the man who is credited with franchising McDonald’s around the world, sometimes flew over prospective sites to look for church steeples and schools, taking them as signs that the community had a solid middle class. He liked isolated locations on cheap lots, well away from existing businesses. Because McDonald’s parking lots were designed in a U shape to guarantee a steady flow of traffic around the restaurant, he was happy with parcels in the middle of a block. He did not have to compete with the gas stations that preferred corner locations, a fact that greatly reduced the cost of franchising.
By the time McDonald’s hit its stride, somewhere in the mid-1960s, the company could not put in an outlet without alerting other franchises that the overlooked location was prime. Other fast-food chains moved in quickly, and the strip was born. Even today lesser chains keep an eye on the major chains and build in their shadows, hoping to catch some of the runoff business, secure that the “majors” have done research to determine the best location.
Zoning could not keep pace during the infancy of the fast-food boom. Perhaps no one saw that a redefinition of our highways was about to take place, or perhaps local businessmen and politicians were pleased to see depressed land values suddenly soar in price. In any case, the rush was on.
Even now the zoning regulations concerning fast-food franchises are confusing and inconsistent. If you look closely at a typical strip, you can see the quality of curbing changes from one zoning jurisdiction to another. In one place the restaurants are fronted by sidewalks; in other locations there are no sidewalks at all. Long-range planning, in most cases, was nonexistent. As a result, our highways are now crammed with franchise signs that, by most reasonable standards, must be considered eyesores.
Understandably, over the years the strips have ignited a good deal of political action and considerable ill will. In Oregon the state legislature introduced bills in 1979 and 1980 to outlaw throwaway containers. Both bills failed, but they have added fuel to the growing controversy around the country. Garden clubs are now asking that signs and roofs be constructed with neutral colors. Resort towns guard their scenic stature by stipulating that the restaurants agree to limit the sizes, and colors, of their signs. Careful landscaping is slowly becoming the rule. Most fast-food franchises realize that proper community relations are essential to good business, and they are quick to comply. In direct response to requests from conservation groups, franchises are building new outlets that attempt to blend with surrounding architecture. On college campuses, or in historic districts, it’s possible to come across a McDonald’s or Burger King with a brick facade marred only by a minuscule sign advertising its product.
The gaudy hamburger and ice-cream stands of the early 1940s and 1950s are being lost, and with them, a genuine period in American architecture. In fact, the most recent push by fast-food franchises is being made in our major cities. The urban population, once courted by White Castle and the corner soda fountain, is now patronizing McDonald’s and Kentucky Fried Chicken and Pizza Hut and Burger King. Some of the chains are experimenting with what is called “vertical rub-off stores”—two or three restaurants located on evenly spaced floors in a high rise, with each one stimulating purchases up and down the honeycomb of offices. Kroc, not long before he died, looked seriously at Chicago’s Sears Tower as a prospective site for three stores. “All three would have done well, with the trade from one rubbing off to the others and not encroaching at all,” he said in his book Grinding It Out. “We didn’t do that for various reasons, but we might try it somewhere in the future.”
The food franchises have entered our cultural history; Ronald McDonald is as well known as Ronald Reagan. “Where’s the beef?” became a throw-off line for politicians around the country. Colonel Sanders, before his death, was one of the most widely recognized individuals in the nation. A bearded gentlemen dressed up as the “Burger King” never quite caught on, but the phrase “Have it your way” and the name Whopper provide instant identification.
But the food franchises have also entered our cultural history as “experiences”—which is an entirely different matter. I remember, for example, a night in the middle of the summer sometime around 1970 when I went out to a Gino’s and inadvertently entered into my first and only fistfight. I was a member of the Westfield High School football team and, together with friends, got into a shoving match with rival football players from Clark, New Jersey. We fought it out—two or three punches thrown, one landed—in the restaurant parking lot. On another night I took my girl friend to the same restaurant, and we necked for twenty minutes before going in to dinner. As trivial as these moments appear in retrospect, they were nevertheless rites of passage for me.
The early hamburger stands are being lost, and with them an architectural era.
We support the fast-food franchises. We go in station wagons, on lunch hours, and for quick summer dinners. We go to celebrate a Little League victory or a junior high school graduation. In the South I have seen prayer meetings held in an empty bay of a McDonald’s restaurant. We go when our schedules get too busy to cook dinner or when we simply need a break. Many restaurants now offer playgrounds for the kids or special promotional games to keep the children busy while the parents steal a few minutes to relax. People seem to be happy in fast-food restaurants for the most part. They know what to expect; they know what things cost.
We go for the taste—something we should not overlook. We go, too, because massive advertising campaigns push us to go. But in a strange way I believe we also go because the food franchises represent free enterprise. Individuals—friends and neighbors—run the franchises up and down our highways. The idea of opening a business, of making a success, is at the heart of American attitudes. We like to visit food franchises because the concept behind them is something we can grasp. One person can start cooking hamburgers in a different way, or begin churning ice cream with more butterfat, and become a millionaire. The message is clear to all of us: You could do this too. Look, isn’t it easy?