Fast food is a type of mass-produced food designed for commercial resale and with a strong priority placed on speed of service versus other relevant factors involved in culinary science. Fast food was originally created as a commercial strategy to accommodate the larger numbers of busy commuters, travelers and wage workers who often did not have the time to sit down at a public house or diner and wait for their meal. By making speed of service the priority, this ensured that customers with strictly limited time were not inconvenienced by waiting for their food to be cooked on-the-spot . In 2018, the fast food industry was worth an estimated $570 billion globally.
The fastest form of fast food consists of pre-cooked meals kept in readiness for a customer's arrival with waiting time reduced to mere seconds. Other fast food outlets, primarily the hamburger outlets use mass-produced pre-prepared ingredients (bagged buns & condiments, frozen beef patties, prewashed/sliced vegetables, etc.) but take great pains to point out to the customer that the meat and potatoes are always cooked fresh and assembled to order .
Although a vast variety of food can be cooked fast, fast food is a commercial term limited to food sold in a restaurant or store with frozen, preheated or precooked ingredients, and served to the customer in a packaged form for take-out/take-away.
Fast food restaurants are traditionally distinguished by their ability to serve food via a drive-through. Outlets may be stands or kiosks, which may provide no shelter or seating, or fast food restaurants which is also known as quick service restaurants. Franchise operations that are part of restaurant chains have standardized foodstuffs shipped to each restaurant from central locations. Fast food began with the first fish and chip shops in Britain in the 1860s. Drive-through restaurants were first popularized in the 1950s in the United States.