Food speeds down fast lane

MASS consumption of fast food is a New World phenomenon.

People in traditional societies - such as Europe - tended to eat at a more leisurely pace.

Perhaps they were attempting to emulate their upper classes that favoured drawn-out banquets.

Feasting in Europe meant eating slowly, many hours on end.

But in the New World, where men were in a hurry, carving out new and larger farms, and even ranches sometimes extended from horizon to horizon, there was little time for long sittings.

According to the American historian Andrew Sinclair, author of the famous study, Prohibition: An Era of Excess, fast foods were introduced into American culture by that famous Hollywood icon, the cowboy, the man on horse back, who lived, worked, and slept under the stars on the range.

These dogged workers rode into towns, tied up at saloons, and after a fast drink wanted a quick meal. Wild West cooks knew these frantically busy cowhands didn’t intend waiting long before plates had to be on the table.

Steaks or bacon were quickly sizzled and with this usually came a serving of beans, the Mexican influence, via Texas, and a mug of coffee or tea.

Then a cowboy was back on his horse and out rounding up until sunset. Meals by campfires were equally fast affairs.

If Sinclair is correct then it explains why so most of the world’s famous fast food chains are American. Names like Sizzler, McDonald’s, Burger King – operating in WA as Hungry Jack’s – KFC and Subway, all hail from the land of fast foods, and the long vanished cowboy.

There are many other names that have not ventured to WA, including Taco Bell, which, like KFC and Pizza Hut, is part of the huge international conglom-erate, Tricon Global Restaur-ants.

But WA hasn’t been slow in joining the fast food trend, maybe because it also was a frontier pioneering society where people were busy and that trait has survived.

Fast Eddys, for instance, is a WA development, now under the ownership and management of the Galloway family, having been established in 1978 by Chris and Con Somas at the corner of Hay and Milligan streets.

Western Australia is also the birthplace of Chicken Treat and Red Rooster.

Chicken Treat was founded by Frank Romano in 1976. Three years before, he began learning his new vocation by working for a new South Australian firm, Chicken Spot.

“The BBQ chicken fast food concept originated in Adelaide where Italians, Slavs and Greeks, all developed their own formulations of charcoal and rotisseries chicken,” Mr Romano said.

Mr Romano moved to WA after managing an Adelaide fast food store to establish his first Chicken Treat outlet in Midland. Today Chicken Treat operates 76 WA outlets, nine in South Australia, and 20 offshore in Thailand.

Perth’s well-known Kailis family launched Red Rooster at Kelmscott in 1972. Nine years later Myer purchased the business, so Red Rooster is now a subsidiary of Coles Myer Ltd, with outlets in all states except South Australia.

Red Rooster wears the crown as being the largest Australian-owned fast food chain.

Returning to the home of fast food, the US, Sizzler, which claims to have introduced “casual dining” to Australia, which Fast Eddys also offers, was founded in 1958 by Californian restaurateurs Del and Helen Johnson who immediately offered a simple menu – two types of steak plus a small salad and bread roll.

In 1984, Sizzler, which had experienced 26 years of rapid growth across America, reached Australia and now operate 30 venues, including five in Perth.

McDonald’s was born in 1955; one year after its famous founder Ray Kroc mortgaged his home and invested his life savings to become exclusive distributor of a five-spindled milk shaker called Multimixer.

The widely hailed Kroc was so impressed with a Californian hamburger stand owned by brothers Dick and Mac McDonald that he acquired the name, opening his first restaurant at Des Plaines, Illinois. Today there are 28,000 McDonald’s worldwide including 56 in WA.

Burger King was founded in Miami, Florida, in 1954, and reached WA 17 years later when the company granted its first Australian franchise to Perth-based Jack Cowin.

Within four years, Mr Cowin’s operation, now trading as Hungry Jack’s, had expanded to Queensland and South Australia, followed soon after by Victoria.

KFC was founded by indomitable Colonel Harland D Sanders who had been in the restaurant industry since the 1930s. In the 1950s he began marketing his unique chicken preparation - which he developed in 1939 - to independent restaurants.

His business was based on selling the preparation for a five-cent royalty on each chicken sold by the franchisee. Because his business grew to a size Sanders felt he could no longer manage, he sold it to a group of investors who created the Kentucky Fried Chicken Corporations.

Subway quick service restaurants were founded by Fred De Luca and Dr Peter Buck of Bridgeport, Connecticut, in 1965. Franchising began in 1974. In WA, Subway is headed by Mr Anthony Chua, having established the foundation Subway in 1988.

WA has four pizza chains operating: Eagle Boys, Pizza Haven, Domino’s and Pizza Hut.

Eagle Boys was the brainchild of New South Welshman Tom Potter, who opened his first pizza bar under that name in Albury in 1987, then aged just 23. Eagle Boys is now one of Australia’s most successful home delivery and takeaway pizza franchises.

The Pizza Haven story began three years earlier, when four brothers, Bill, Evan, Louis and Gabriel Christou, of a Cypriot migrant family, launched their own business in Adelaide.

With the assistance of a $24,000 mortgage on their parent’s home they opened their first store in Glenelg, South Australia. Today there are 384 outlets across Australia, New Zealand and South East Asia with 15 in WA.

Domino’s Pizza in Australia originated with Brisbane brothers, Silvio and Fel Bevacqua. Later their brother, Aldo, joined the duo and they operated under the name, Silvio’s Pizza.

In 1995, Silvio’s Dial-A-Pizza, with 89 stores nationwide, acquired the master franchise of Domino’s Pizza – a Michigan chain - for Australia and New Zealand. Pizza Hut, like KFC, is a wing of Tricon Global Restaurants.

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