Has American fast food (including take out pizza) gotten better over the past 20 years or so?

Many people remember the fast food and pizza joints of their youth quite fondly, but if I had to be honest I’d have to say that modern fast food and take out pizza is (generally) higher quality than the fast food of years ago.

Do you think fast food and take out pizza has gotten better or worse in the last 20-30 years or so?

Seems about the same to me. But that’s for national chains that have been around all of that time. There are chains that have started since then that are ‘better’ than the old standbys, and the latter now offer ‘better’ alternatives to their older menus. But a Big Mac is still a Big Mac, and Kentucky Fried Chicken is still Kentucky Fried Chicken. (Although the potatoes seem not as good as I remember when I was a kid.)

I would say that generally it has gotten more varied, more affordable (relative to cost of living) more mainstream and overall, just more popular in general.

I dont know if all this equals higher quality, but I tend to think it does, at least in many cases.

I think it’s improved a lot. (Except the fries all went downhill without beef tallow.) You can DEFINITELY get a much better pizza delivered today than you could even when I was in college.

I don’t know if it’s on-topic, but take and bake pizza is way better than almost any delivery pizza. It always seems to be higher quality and much less greasy than, say, Round Table.

I tried Papa Murphy’s for a while, and I love the relative cost and convenience, but it just couldn’t beat Papa John’s for taste. Papa John’s is by itself proof that delivery pizza is better now than it used to be.

Also, not a few fast-food restaurants have started catering to the ‘quality’ segment, like with Carl’s Jr’s Six-Dollar Burgers. They’re not restaurant quality, but they’re leagues above the cheap, constant fare that most places have offered.

On the other hand, I wouldn’t be surprised if some places have had to lower the quality of their ingredients over the years in order to keep prices competitive.

The low-end stuff is as bad as ever, but there are more places offering gourmet sandwiches on Artisan bread and the like. In that sense, yeah, it’s gotten better.

In my experience, I believe that the quality of fast food in general and “fast food” pizza, has decreased in the past 20 years . And I believe the reason behind this is the Mega Corporization, consolidation, and diversification of chains like YUM, and the ever increasing “efficiency optimization” of fast food and its direct correlation to a decrease in quality (and possibly to a lesser extent the quality and quantity of the employee pool that they have to choose and draw from has decreased over the last 20 years). For example, McDonald’s has suffered a serious decrease in the quality and freshness of their burgers due to their new meat drawer, made to order, system. The burgers are never fresh from the grill and they just hang around dryng out in a heat drawer. Similarly, "fast food pizzas’ are all made on these new high tech conveyor belt ovens that impart no character or flavor to the pizzas like the old fashioned seasoned pizza ovens did. The wok hei and imperfection of the high temp pizza ovens of yesterday were 90% of what makes a great, distinctive, pizza. They have sacrificed their quality and the original systems that made them great for ever increasing efficiency… the food has just gotten faster in the last 20 years, not better.

I loathe fast food burgers (except for Burger King). But it seems I can get some kind of chicken wrap just about anywhere now, and I do love chicken wraps.

No. Note that I am in Canada, and I speak about the Canadian experience.

“Fast food” used to be just what the name implied – it was faster than a sit-down restaurant. However, today, fast food has been replaced by instant food. You order it, and it’s there before you know it because it has been cooked ahead of time.

Once upon a time, they cooked it to order. The important thing is that it was actually cooked for you after you asked for it. What do you get now? An instant burger that when you take it over to eat it, you find that the cheese isn’t even melted. Half the time, it’s only luke-warm.

And what if it wasn’t totally cooked when they stuck it in that plastic warming drawer? Can you say “e coli”? It’s a crap shoot sometimes – literally. About once in every twelve trips to McDonalds, I usually come down with food poisoning.

(BTW, pulling out prevously cooked meat and assembling a burger isn’t “cooked to order”; “cooked to order” means cooked in response to an order, not just merely assembled from previously cooked product.)

The quality is appalling. Yes, a Big Mac is still a Big Mac, but doesn’t it seem to have gotten smaller over time?

Lest anyone think I am picking only on McDonald’s, there is also the case of A&W. Note that A&W only shares the same name with the American chain of the same name, but that is where the similarity ends. The product line is nowhere near the same, other than the root beer, that is.

I cooked in an A&W back in the early 80s – and I’m sure I could make their burgers in my sleep, even still, today. The ones they push out these days are nothing like they used to be, and they’re nowhere near as tasty.

KFC is another one that seems to have lost a lot of the flavour they formerly had. The breading today seems saltier than it used to be, and the gravy is horrid. The only real improvement has to do with the fries, which seem to have gotten better, but that must be the Taco Bell influence since the merger of the two by Pepsico.

On the pizza front, if it ain’t cooked in a pizza oven, it’s not pizza.

Pizza Hut in Canada has always sucked – they’ve always been skimpy with the toppings here, unlike in the US where the pie was absolutely covered in toppings. I say “was” though, because I haven’t eaten at a US Pizza Hut in years. For all I know, they’ve gotten skimpy with the toppings too.

So, no, it hasn’t gotten better. More products, sure, but if they’re all just rewarmed crap, why bother?

Really? Papa Johns? I wonder how much they have changed then. I remember an overinflated crust with a minimum of cheese and toppings, so much so, that they served garlic butter in order to dip the bread they called pizza into. The whole pizza was basically a roll with a little bit of cheese.

Hard to say. For a while there, Taco Bell had low fat sour cream and that was a good thing. But they discontinued their good cheese and now its crap.

Thin crust, my friend.

ETA - if you’re getting food poisoning one in twelve McDonalds trips, either you’re not getting food poisoning or you have some sort of disorder.

McDonald’s food has declined in quality a lot over the last decade or so. Right around the time they decided to give in a little to all the critics and start fucking up the recipies. The fries especially. The old ones, holy crap, probably the greatest food on earth, and that’s before you even taste them, just the smell. Current ones. Meh, they’re alright but nothing special.

Whoever gave the goahead on that change needs to go to the special hell reserved for child molestors and people who talk during the movies.

the glory that is chipotle validates this thread.

I didn’t have In N Out when I was young. I would say fast food went from a D- to an A triple-plus when I discovered In N Out. Everyone who complains about the definition of “cooked to order” needs to stand inside and watch them cook your burger. The kitchen is wide open for everyone to see. They cut the goddamned potatoes themselves and fry them right there in front of you. It’s equal to sit-down quality in every way, and you spend less than 5 bucks for a burger/fries/coke meal.

That’s all you can order, though. There’s no chicken wraps or Caesar salads or fajita pitas or tacos or guacamole lettuce wraps or fillet of fish or whatever. They do one thing, and they do it right.

ETA: Holy crap! I forgot to mention Baja Fresh! You’ll spend about 6 bucks for a burrito that’s as big as almost any value meal at a burger joint, and it’s amazingly tasty. If you haven’t tried Baja Fresh yet, give it a shot. You’ll spend about 7-9 bucks a person if you get drinks and sides like guacamole.

Finding a decent Pizza chain is challenging for me these days. I gave up on Pizza Hut seven years ago. Pizza Inn closed all their restaurants in Little Rock about 10 years ago. I get pizza at a local, non-franchise place now.

KFC seems to always give me undercooked chicken. I still visit Church’s and Popeyes. It’s frustrating because KFC used to have the best fried chicken in the world. These days it doesn’t seem like the same place anymore.

Why waste time on Taco Bell or El Chico anymore? Our cities Hispanic population has quadrupled in the past 10 years. There’s literally five authentic Mexican restaurants within six miles of my house.

The best burger chain here is Backyard Burger. They are in Arkansas, TN, Mississippi etc. It’s expanding into other states pretty fast.

Almost forgot. Sonic seems better than 30 years ago. Anyone remember their soybean burgers from the 1970’s? They added it as a filler to the meat. Now, they use all meat and it’s much better. Their Tater Tots are still good too.

I don’t know. There’s a lot more options, many of the newer ones have great quality (ex: Chipotle) and I tend to think a rising tide raises all boats. I definitely think Taco Bell has improved – a LOT – over the past 30 years. Remember when they didn’t even serve chicken? And the Cheesy Tots at Burger King are man’s greatest invention.

McDonald’s, I think, is about the same as it ever was, but in comparison to the competition appears to have declined.

Because a taco from Taco Bell is its own type of food, and sometimes I want one from there instead of the real thing. It’s the same reason I still eat fast food burgers instead of always making my own. They’re different foods.