People are living lives that seem busier than ever before. We are getting up early, staying up late, and working longer hours than arguably ever in history. Although some countries are looking at ways to reduce the number of hours people are working, the United States keeps seeing a slow, but steady increase in work responsibilities in several industries.
That means many families are relying on products from the fast food industry to take care of their meals on a regular basis. It is easier to grab something that is served to you in 10 minutes or less then it is to come home when you are tired to cook a meal.
The global fast food industry generates over $570 billion in revenues each year. That amount is larger than what some of the economies are in some of the smaller countries on our planet. About 40% of the market in this industry goes to the United States. There are over 200,000 quick service restaurants in the U.S. and 50 million people are eating at them at least once per day.
There are several advantages to consider when looking at the fast food industry, but there are also disadvantages that we must look at before deciding that a QSR meal is the right choice to make. That’s why these fast food pros and cons are crucial to review.
List of the Pros of Fast Food
1. The fast food industry is a significant employer in the United States.
Over 4 million people have jobs because of the fast food industry in the United States. Even though surveys consistently estimate that individuals are trying to cut back on the habit of eating at these restaurants, they are still experiencing consistent growth. Over 200,000 new jobs were added in 2015 alone.
2. The fast food industry provides affordable meals.
The average cost of a meal at a fast food industry location is exceptionally affordable in most locations. An individual can choose a combo meal from some of today’s industry leaders for under five dollars. Top brands like McDonald’s and Burger King offer value meals and menu items that can have you pay less than $2 for some food products. If you were to visit a grocery store for a grab-and-go item, you might be lucky to come out of there with a candy bar. A cheap burger looks like a healthier alternative from that perspective.
3. The fast food industry makes it easy for busy families to reach their calorie needs.
The fast food industry is one of the most affordable ways to obtain calories for families right now. If you were to go to your local grocery store, you might be able to achieve 40 calories for each dollar that you spend on healthy food items. It may be even lower if you focus on produce items for your shopping.
If you were to order a cheeseburger off of the value menu from your favorite fast food brand, you could achieve up to 300 calories for the same investment. You can order healthier options, like a salad, and still come out over 30 calories more per dollar than you can with grab-and-go items from supermarkets.
4. The fast food industry is extremely convenient.
When you are tired after a long day at work, then the last thing on your mind is cooking dinner for everyone. The same principle holds true when evaluating lunch options at work. The convenience of the fast food industry cannot be overstated. If you walk into a QSR location, then there is an excellent chance you will have food to eat in five minutes or less. There are drive-thru options available at many locations as well, making it possible to pull up and order before heading home to eat with the family. Unlike other food options, there isn’t a surcharge for these benefits.
5. The fast food industry offers healthy food options.
There are some healthy eating options available in the fast food industry if you know where to look. Kentucky Fried Chicken offers one of the best deals for this advantage, providing a grilled chicken breast that gives you only 180 calories and 6g of fat. You can add a serving of mashed potatoes and corn on the cob for under 100 calories for each item. Skip the biscuit and the gravy to have a meal that doesn’t feel like it will clog your arteries.
Most industry brands will offer a low-calorie sandwich, salad, or fruit item that will help you keep your calorie counts down while still enjoying the convenience of this industry.
6. The fast food industry offers experience consistency.
Many of the fast food locations that are available in the United States (and even around the world) are based on a franchise model. These businesses have independent owners and operators, but they are also required to follow a specific model when offering foods and interacting with their customers. If you walk into a Burger King in California, then there is a reasonable expectation that you will receive a similar experience when you visit a franchise in Florida. You can depend on specific standards of quality, which is a tremendous benefit if you are traveling somewhere.
7. The fast food industry offers entrepreneurial opportunities.
Wendy’s offers one of the best franchise options in the fast food industry today. Although you will need at least $2 million in liquid assets and a minimum net worth of $5 million, you can obtain a franchise with this group for just $40,000. You will pay a royalty fee of 4%, and then advertising fee of 4%, with the rest of the profits going to the independent owner and operator. If you choose a brand like Dominos pizza, there is even a possibility of receiving a franchise without a fee at all.
List of the Cons of Fast Food
1. The fast food industry is more expensive than the average home-cooked meal.
If you know how to shop intelligently at the grocery store, then you can serve meals at home for as little as two dollars per person. When you visit a location in the fast food industry, then you are going to spend an average of $4.50 per person. That means the average family of four in the United States can save roughly $500 each year if they choose to eat at home one more time per week then they do right now. Although there are affordable options on the menu, most people order value meals or combinations that increase their price.
2. The fast food industry serves products that could be dangerous to your health.
Eating processed foods and menu items from the fast food industry is often advertised as a fast way to satisfy your hunger. Although there is a certain truth to this observation, there are some specific risks to consider if you choose to eat at QSR locations frequently.
• Public Health Journal reports that people who eat fast food items regularly are 51% more likely to experience depression compared to those who do not.
• The Journal of Adolescent Health reports that girls eating one serving of French fries per week during adolescence can increase their risk of breast cancer by 27%.
• Circulation published a study that found consumers who eat fast food just once each week can increase the risk of coronary heart disease by 20%. Eating items two or three times per week grows this risk to 50%.
There are additional physical symptoms to consider as well, including anxiety, mood swings, and brain fog.
3. The fast food industry offers products of questionable quality.
The fast food industry uses a variety of vendors and shipping processes to create the best quality of service possible at each location. Because many brands and locations are shifting toward the use of fresh foods, the quality that you may receive is dependent upon that restaurant’s ability to follow proper food handling procedures. Even if the best practices are being followed by the franchisee, it is up to you to watch how your food is prepared to determine if it meets your standards.
4. The fast food industry contributes to the obesity epidemic.
There are some people who would say that the fast food industry is only providing a service. It is the responsibility of each person to make healthy eating choices that benefit their health and their families. The fact remains that obesity in the United States is a problem that continues to grow – no pun intended. Over 1/3 of children above the age of six are classified as either overweight or obese by the medical provider. 2/3 of adults fit into the same category. Although a person must decide if convenience is what they want, there are addictive qualities to consider with industry products too.
CRC Health reports that there are scientists who believe that fast food items are just as addictive as heroin. Some people may even go through withdrawal symptoms if they are unable to access their favorite foods.
5. The fast food industry encourages a change in your eating habits.
Taco Bell encouraged consumers starting in 2006 to consider the chain as a fourth meal option. Their goal is simple: to encourage people to settle their late-night cravings for a snack with a menu item from one of their local locations. People are recognizing now more than ever that the marketing efforts from some fast food providers are changing the ways that they think about food. That is one reason that the Seattle Times reports that industry traffic is down 1.1% despite some gains from the industry’s top brands.
6. The fast food industry does not support alternative eating needs.
The most significant disadvantage for many families when looking at fast food options as a meal is a lack of special diet support. If you have a food sensitivity or an allergy, then you’re eating these foods at your own risk. Most locations post a warning that state there is no control over cross-contamination. Even if you are a vegetarian and choose a salad, there are not always guarantees that the menu item is free of animal products. Animal products may include lactic acid, gelatin, casein, lecithin, and stearic acid.
7. The fast food industry charges more for their healthy items.
If you want to get out of a fast food location for the best possible price, then a burger and fries is often the best option. The cost of healthy items is often comparable to what you would pay for a combo meal with most brands. If you want to purchase a fresh salad at Wendy’s, then you will pay up to $6.69 plus tax at most locations. That’s the same price as the Son of Baconator combo.
The pros and cons of fast food require us to evaluate our current lifestyle and habits. If we can make some time in our schedule to make healthy foods at home, then many of the disadvantages found above can begin to disappear. These products on their own are not necessarily harmful. When there is no moderation involved, then that is when they can become dangerous.
Natalie Regoli is a child of God, devoted wife, and mother of two boys. She has a Master's Degree in Law from The University of Texas. Natalie has been published in several national journals and has been practicing law for 18 years.