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Caravans pioneered the road for takeaway chains

PERTH has had a fast food culture since at least the early World War II years, so for more than 60-years, albeit on a far smaller scale than today.

Probably Perth’s most memorable fast food venue was the once indomitable Bernies, in Mounts Bay Road, where people from all over a far smaller metropolitan area converged to devour big and small hamburgers, usually with hot or other drinks.

Bernies was even patronised by hundreds of American submariners stationed at wartime Fortress Fremantle – the US Navy’s second biggest wartime submarine base – and Catalina pilots and aircrew based at Crawley Bay who converged upon it after sun-down.

But just as Bernies had its loyal fast food devotees so also did a caravan on Cottesloe Beach, known far and wide as Van Eileens, from the early 1960s.

While Bernies has been displaced by the multi-million dollar Mount Hospital, Van Eileens (Eats) still operates in Cottesloe, but in Stirling Highway.

Both are tiny fragments of Perth’s nostalgia for the grandparents and parents of today’s generation of fast food devotees who have a host of outlets to select from, offering takeaways that range from various types and sizes of burgers, chicken pieces, sandwiches, chips, salads, pizzas and take away desserts and drinks and even soups.

Competition is, to use the old cliché, cutthroat, with letterbox drops of promotional flyers across Perth’s suburbs and television advertising, especial-ly during children’s programs

Perth, and indeed WA, has 13 fast food chains servicing a market of almost a million potential clients in the metropolitan area and nearly 800,000 across the State.

The chains, which have ventured beyond the metropolitan area, must inevitably base themselves in the State’s handful of isolated regional centers.

This means the larger Pilbara towns, Geraldton, Kalgoorlie, Bunbury, Busselton and Albany.

All rely on high turnover and offer fast service – usually with drive-in and they are opened long hours, especially after dark and over weekends.

The impact that the chains have on the State’s agricultural and horticultural sectors can only be described as enormous with huge quantities of bread, milk, meat – red and chicken - fish, vegetables and extras from cheeses to sauces to chutneys, pickled and other accessories with most of this locally supplied.

An appreciation of the force of a single food chain can have on primary sectors can be gained from Pizza Hut’s impact in America.

The company says it currently consumes 2.5 per cent of all the milk (over 1.45 billion kilograms) produced in the US for cheese which is equivalent to a herd of 250,000 dairy cows producing at full capacity 365 days a year.

McDonald’s, which opened at its Perth Town Hall site in 1982, last year bought from WA primary producers 17.7 million buns, 4.9 million muffins, 5.7 million eggs, 264,000 kilograms of lettuce, 52,800 kilograms of onions, and 42,000 kilograms of tomatoes.

Western Australia has 409 fast food outlets with 356 of them located in Perth metropolitan area. If the State’s non-metropolitan population was not as disbursed then more rural dwellers would attract greater numbers of fast food outlets.

The chains, like banks, service stations, and other service providers, must necess-arily operate on set numerical thresholds since they operate on high volumes and low margins.

The Howard Government’s GST has consequently had a significant impact on business.

Together the chains currently employ nearly 18,000 full and part-time workers and a high proportion of these are students or recent school leavers.

This means fast food stores are initial training grounds for several thousands of young West Australians annually and have come to be seen as entry points into the workforce.

WA in 2001 has 13 fast food chains.

The names one would see during a casual drive through the metropolitan area or across the State include pizza venues that include; Eagle Boys (14 metropolitan and 8 regional); Pizza Haven (15 metro); Pizza Hut (32 metro); and Domino’s (23 metro, 2 regional).

The list is as long for those specializing in chicken or white meat. These venues include: Red Rooster (45 metro, 6 regional); Nando’s (5 metro); KFC (33 metro); WA-based Chicken Treat (51 metro, 21 regional) and River Rooster (7 regional, 4 metro).

Seafood chains are Fish Feast

(7 metro) and Fish & Chicks

(5 metro).

There is also a variety of other specialists such as DIY lunch bar Mr Bird’s MYO (7 metro), Pure & Natural Diners (11 metro, 2 regional), The Kebab Company (17 metro, 7 regional), Jester’s Jaffle Pie Co (7 metro) and Mr Spag’s Spaghetti Bar (1 metro, 4 regional).

Two of the chains, Fast Eddys and Sizzler, offer casual restaurant-style eating.

Fast Eddys has five metropolitan outlets and one in Bunbury, while Sizzler has five metropolitan venues.

McDonald’s, Hungry Jack’s, and also Fast Eddys vie for the family dollar in the competitive hamburger markets.

Hungry Jack’s has 32 metropolitan outlets and four in regional centers compared to McDonald’s 48 and eight respectively.

And there’s the worldwide Subway quick service restaurants, with 48 metropolitan outlets and three in regional centres.

Comments

Dallas TX, USA.
I miss Bernies... the Lot with an fried egg. I have not found a hamburger better than theirs anywhere in all the world. We also loved their signs changing every month...

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