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Who Are Fast-Food Freaks and What Are They Eating?

November 27, 1987|MARK LANDSBAUM | Times Staff Writer

Who eats fast food, anyway?

The National Restaurant Assn. has compiled a profile of the typical fast-food customer.

The typical fast-food eater is more likely to be male than female.

If female, she often has a full-time job.

He or she is probably from a household of three or more people and is generally 18-34 years old.

And (this is important), the typical fast-food customer has an annual income of at least $30,000.

Now that we have identified who buys fast food and determined that they probably live in your house, just what are they eating?

Although everyone knows fast food when he bites into it, not everyone can define it. Try to convince the parents of squawking, restless, hungry children that the pizza they waited 25 minutes for was fast food.

For that matter, are take-out orders in coffee shops fast food? Are chilled sandwiches served in gasoline service stations converted into mini-markets fast food? Must fast food be ready in a hurry? Must it be "precooked?"

In Anaheim, the city planning code attempts a definition of the fast-food restaurant:

"Any establishment which is engaged in the business of preparing and purveying food where said food is customarily ordered by patrons while standing at a window or counter located inside the building, regardless of the manner in which said food is thereafter served or whether said food is consumed on the premises."

But Del Taco Restaurants president Wayne Armstrong says a fast-food restaurant must have "25% or more of the orders for take-out or drive-through, or, in other words, eaten away from the premises."

Don't like that one? Try the National Restaurant Assn.'s definition: "Food (that) is ordered at a counter and there is no table service."

One more. Janet Lowder, manager of the restaurant consulting group with the accounting firm of Laventhol and Horwath, has a concise, if not precise definition: "Limited menus, no table service."

There is no definitive definition, California Restaurant Assn. spokesman Mark Leas says. "But it generally involves operations with limited or no seating, and the principal activity involves take-out business."

Five national and regional fast-food chains have headquartered in Orange County: Carl's Jr. Restaurants, Del Taco Restaurants, Taco Bell, Naugles Restaurants and Wienerschnitzel.

But how many fast-food outlets are there in Orange County?

By the California Restaurant Assn.'s definition, 4,805 fast-food restaurants generated more than $1.8 billion in taxable sales last year.

But if you use the state Board of Equalization's definition, there were 2,401 Orange County fast-food restaurants with more than $700 million in taxable sales that year.

Either way you figure it, that's a lot of French fries.

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