In Celebration of Fast Food in Canada
Amidst a changing food service landscape over the course of the pandemic, we started seeing many dine-in restaurants dip their toes into takeout. Coupling that with the rapid growth of food delivery services like SkipTheDishes, Doordash, and UberEats, the boundaries on food options we could pick up or have delivered right to our door on a busy lunch break or lazy evening were blown right open. Suddenly, we had access to all of our favourite restaurant dishes at the click of a button.
But on one criteria, the original quick service giants always had full-service restaurants beat – time & convenience. You’re on a long road trip, a car full of cramped, hungry, tired travellers looking for a quick bite to eat; or you’re running from work to your evening pottery class with only a few minutes to scarf down dinner; or maybe your daily ritual is to grab that morning coffee before sprinting to catch the streetcar. These are the times we cherish our trusty and reliable fast food chains the most.
Fast Food can be considered any meal that can be prepared quickly and served packaged, whether you’re dining in, taking away, or driving thru. Though the thought of North American Culture and Fast Food Chains tend to go hand in hand, we were far from the first to invent the concept. The first evidence of fast-food establishments dates back over 2,000 years ago to prepared food counters called “thermopoleums” perfectly preserved and unearthed from the ashes of ancient Pompeii selling items like duck, goat, and snails (Canada Convenience Store News). China’s all night noodle stands have been traced back to the 2nd century (Canada Convenience Store News).
In Western society, however, we have cultivated a long-standing love affair with fast food since its rise following World War II. From food innovations led by scientists in collaboration with the military emerged a food system that was “time-insensitive”, meaning it was shelf-stable and could be mass produced and stored for long periods of time before consumption (The Griffins’ Nest). Following these innovations, fast food chains made their way to the forefront in the 50s and 60s. Improving travel infrastructure was further popularizing the automobile and encouraging an on-the-go lifestyle (The Griffins’ Nest), and subsequently, drive-in dining culture.
Today, the fast food industry represents a nearly $30 billion market in Canada (IBIS World) and is forecasted to reach over $40 billion in the next 5 years (Business Wire). As of 2022, the industry employs over 320,000 Canadian workers (IBIS World).
November 16th is National Fast Food Day, and we’re taking a minute to celebrate with a list of Canada’s top ten largest fast food chains. It should come as no surprise that Canada’s very own Tim Horton’s tops the charts with 3,608 locations across this great country, closely followed by Subway and Starbucks. Together, these three make up almost 60% of the entire top ten list!