The rise of the ‘fast food’ concept as it is understood in the 21st century is the result of a series of calibrations enacted over decades by business, society and technology. The expansion of fast food franchising has paralleled social and environmental change, particularly since the middle of the 20th century. Its origins may be seen as modernism’s response to unease with the processing of food under industrial conditions; yet its development as a ‘system’ has mirrored or inspired innovation in service delivery, construction and social expectation over the last century. Many of these are connected to the rise of the automobile and the expansion of low-density suburbia.
Fast food’s planning history has gone largely undocumented. The fast food outlet is so ubiquitous that while critics might decry its products as a negative influence on health, the outlet might nonetheless be said to be hiding in plain sight: in the guise of just one more manifestation of automobile-led change. This paper explores the community effects of fast food chains as a wider built environment phenomena, first in the early 20th century US and then as translated into Australia in from the late 1960s onwards. It considers - in what regard has urban planning evolved to accommodate fast food restaurants; and how have such places impacted on urban form? How have communities responded (including the case of conflict in Tecoma, Victoria) to the local emergence of global fast food outlets, and what can community responses tell us about the history and future of fast food chains?