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Cat in the Stax: The Fast-Food Graveyard

By Ethan Shea


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If you’re reading this blog on the day of its publication, you’re in luck because today (Nov. 16) is National Fast Food Day! Partaking in this seldom celebrated holiday is simple. All you need to do is stop by your local fast-food chain and enjoy a meal.

In honor of this momentous occasion, this week’s Cat in the Stax blog will take a close look at fast food in the United States.

One fact that caught me off guard concerns the number of locations each fast-food chain owns. Guess which restaurant has the most locations in the United States. McDonald’s? Maybe Starbucks? If these were your guesses, you’re close but still incorrect.

According to Business Insider, as of 2019, Starbucks and McDonald’s respectively owned the second and third most fast food franchises in the U.S., but the most common fast food restaurant in America (by a long shot) is Subway!  Maybe it’s just me, but I was surprised to learn that Subway has 24,798 locations compared to Starbucks’ 14,608 and the 13,914 held by McDonald’s.

This number has almost certainly changed over the past few years, but it’s nonetheless a surprising statistic.

Another one of my favorite topics is what I like to call the fast-food graveyard, a.k.a discontinued menu items.

Almost everyone has a beloved meal that disappeared without warning. McDonald’s has a particularly iconic list of retired menu items, from the Cinnamelt to Spicy McNuggets.

However, one discontinued menu item has recently been resurrected. That’s right, for the umpteenth time, the McRib has returned to say its last goodbyes. McDonald’s describes the ongoing McRib revival as the sandwich’s “Farewell Tour,” but we all know this isn’t the end of the infamous pork sandwich.

On a personal note, I have to eat a McRib at least once a year. I don’t even know if I enjoy the annual meal, but there’s just something about consuming a carefully measured dose of restructured pork…

Anyways, another fun fact I learned about McDonald’s concerns the Big Mac. Did you know the iconic burger was invented in Pennsylvania? Jim Delligatti created the Big Mac in 1967 and sold it for the first time in Uniontown, PA. You never know where you’ll find a pivotal piece of Pennsylvania history!

Fast food is a topic that you can learn even more about at Falvey. If you’d like to become an expert on the phenomenon of fast food in the United States, check out these resources:

Fast Foods: Consumption Patterns, Role of Globalization and Health Effects – Marlin Sanford

Fast Food: Roadside Restaurants in the Automobile Age – John Jakle

Fast Food Nation: The Dark Side of the All-American Meal – Eric Schlosser

Headshot of Ethan SheaEthan Shea is a graduate student in the English Department at Villanova University and Graduate Assistant at Falvey Library.



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Last Modified: November 16, 2022

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