I’m not a big fan of fast food restaurants because they are just not very interesting. By necessity it’s standardized, chain-restaurant food and thus by definition it’s boring.
But we all lead busy, mobile lives so sometimes fast food can’t be avoided. Thus, the arrival of fast-food restaurants that make an attempt to serve healthy, fresh, sustainable food is on the whole a good thing.
As Julie Moskin reports in the NY Times:
A handful of rapidly growing regional chains around the country — including Tender Greens, LYFE Kitchen, SweetGreen and Native Foods — offer enticements like grass-fed beef, organic produce, sustainable seafood and menus that change with the season. Most promise local ingredients; some are exclusively vegetarian or even vegan. A few impose calorie ceilings, and others adopt service touches like busboys and china plates.
And despite the higher costs and prices, all are thriving and planning national expansions, some directed by alumni of fine dining or of fast-food giants like McDonald’s.
Their success marks a milestone: After decades of public hand-wringing about the empty calories and environmental impact of fast food, the farm-to-table notions that have revolutionized higher-end American restaurants have finally found a lucrative spot in the takeout line. The result already has a nickname: farm to counter.
“This is not a passing fad,” said B. Hudson Riehle, the research director for the National Restaurant Association, who added that locally grown food and sustainability were the top two customer priorities reported this year in the group’s annual poll of American chefs. “It’s only going to get stronger.
Of course, the problem is that these new chains are serving a different market than McDonalds and Burger King—it’s unlikely that Tender Greens will replace McDonalds. So this development will have little effect on overall health.
Basically it gives people who can afford to pay $10 for a salad, who already think of that as a meal, and who are committed to sustainability, the opportunity to eat fast food without feeling guilty.
A reduction is guilt is a good thing but it isn’t revolutionary.