Fast food is defined as standardized restaurant foods prepared in mass,served rapidly and are uniform in taste and quality because they are typically sold by nationwide chains. Although decades ago the term was mostly synonymous with "convenience," tody it has connotations of food that is "inexpensive," "unhealthy," "robotic," and "greasy."
Still, fast food is a $103 billion a year business in the U.S. There are nearly 200,000 fast-food outlets, twice the number in 1980. According to the National Restaurant Association, 37% of Americans ate at least one meal away from home on the average day in 1986. On the average, Americans consume about 20% or one meal in five, away from home, spending a whopping 40% of their total food dollars. Young people aged 18-24 are most likely to eat out and consume over 250 meals a year away from home. (来源：英语杂志 http://www.EnglishCN.com)
Nationally, Americans spend an average of $526 per person in bars and restaurants in 1986, according to the Food Institute. According to the National Restaurant Association, 55% of Americans prefer restaurants that specialized in American cooking.
The prototypical and most popular fast food by far is the hamburger. The quintessential American light meal, it is named for the city of Hamburg in Germany, where residents pounded their beef soft in the 19th century. By 1912, "hamburger" patties were served on buns. The current ubiquity of hamburgers stems from the success of the White Castle restaurant chain in the 1920s, but it would be decades later before McDonald's would make the beeg patty-in-a-bun sandwich a global institution.
McDonald's was founded in California in 1940 by brothers Mac and Dick McDonald. The McDonald's phemonenon began in 1948, when the McDonald brothers decided that too much of their income went to pay car hops, dishwashers, and fry cooks. To cut costs, the brothers developed a standardized menu which led to unbelievably fast service, lower prices, and freedom from tipping.
In 1952, they ran an ad in American Restaurant for "McDonald's Self-Service System Drive-Ins," which featured "no car hops, no waitresses, no dishwashers, no dishes, no more silverware,... The McDonald system eliminates all of this!"