How to define “Fast Food”

It seems that the District of Columbia (That’d be Washington D.C. to you non-American readers) is having difficulty coming up with a legal definition of “Fast Food Restaurant”.

Their previous attempt, constructed in the 1980′s, had phrases such as “ready-to-consume food” and “customer queuing” occupying “greater than ten percent of the total floor space on any one (1) floor that is accessible to the public.” Anyone with a passing knowledge of bureaucracy-speak can see that these can be broadly applied to places that may not fit in the spirit of what is “fast food”.

Their current tact?

Under the proposed change, you’ll know you’re in a fast-food eatery if a) there’s a drive-through window; or b) you pay before you eat; or c) you eat off paper plates, and your utensils are of the plastic variety.

Then there was another issue: What about those establishments that aren’t fast-food or restaurants, such as ice cream parlors, latte bars and delis? What do they have in common? Answer: no cooking on premises.

I think the drive-through window angle is a good start, but items b and c are problematic.
Many buffet restaurants have you pay before you eat, and many barbecue places have folks eat off of paper (or Styrofoam) plates and eat with plastics utensils. If I recall correctly, there’s a pretty decent chili chain local to the D.C. area which offers paper plates and bowls as well as plastic utensils.

And thus, if cooking on site and having a drive-window are the only requirement that fits, how would the Subway’s and Quizno’s of the world fit into their picture?

Weird. How do you define a fast food restaurant?

My quick and snarky reply? Any restaurant that deliver a customer over 1200 calories with two items from a menu board, and is designed to have these products in the customer’s hands in less than three minutes is a fast food restaurant.