From steaming french fries to piping hot pizza, it is difficult to imagine a more iconic piece of Americana than fast food culture. Fast food chains certainly pop up all over the planet, but drive-thru restaurants offering fast food on demand to hungry consumers is a distinct part of food culture in the United States. While individuals have different motivations for patronizing fast food chains, it is easy to see some aspects of their broad consumer appeal.
Some of the primary reasons that fast food appeals to a wide variety of consumers include affordability, convenience, taste and targeted marketing.
Fast food is a notoriously affordable option, and price is one of the primary reasons people frequent fast food chains. Finding inexpensive options for dining out is especially important to families, which make up a large percentage of fast food customers. Many chains offer value meals or items for as little as a dollar and count on customers on tight budgets to take advantage of such bargains.
Perhaps the only thing more valuable to consumers than affordability is convenience. With so many daily pressures on modern individuals and families, many people lack the time to dedicate to cooking meals at home. The ready availability of fast food chains with drive-thru windows provides consumers a quick option to purchase meals. For some people, the addition of healthier meal options on fast food menus strengthens the attraction of this convenience.
Taste and Appetites
Many fast food restaurants offer guilty pleasures on their menus, such as french fries and burgers smothered with cheese or bacon. These menu items are filling and tasty and also serve as appealing comfort foods for many people. Unfortunately, the reason fast food tastes so good is often because it's loaded with fat, sodium and sugar. Due to the outcry from an increasingly health conscious customer base, many fast food chains now offer healthier menu items or more nutritionally sound preparation options. This allows fast food chains to appeal to the appetites of a wider variety of consumer.
Effective Marketing Campaigns
Fast food restaurants spend a great deal of money marketing their meals to consumers, and this seems to be panning out. Children, teens and adults all form separate targets for advertising. Fast food chains appeal to children by offering toys and special meals aimed just for this demographic. Teens and adults may respond to marketing promotions that capitalize on popular sports and media events or that publicize contests as a way to entice diners through their doors. For busy parents, advertisers highlight convenience, healthy meal options and the idea that fast food brings family happiness.
Allison Edrington is a freelance journalist based out of Eureka, Calif., specializing in crafts, science fiction and gaming. She has written for the "Eureka Times-Standard," covering education, business and city government, and previously worked for the "Chico Enterpise-Record." Edrington graduated from California State University, Chico, with a bachelor's degree in journalism and a minor in history.