Why are there no new fast food restaurants?

While driving around my fair city in Texas today, I noticed that virtually every national fast food restaurant chain has been around as long as I can remember (which is about 30 years- give or take a few years). McD’s, Burger King, KFC, Long John Silvers, Chick Fil-a, Pizza Hut, Sonic, and Dairy Queen were all around as national franchises (I think). I am not sure about Popeye’s, Taco Bell, Dominoes, or Jack in the Box, but they were at least around 20-25 years ago. The only national fast food restaurant chain that I can think of off the top of my head that is somewhat new (past 20 years) and prevelant in most every city is Subway. There are lots of relatively new chain sit down restaurants, plenty of new chain bookstores, new clothing stores, etc, but no new fast food restaurants. Why is that- was there a golden age of fast food restaurants or something? Are the main restaurants too dominant? Do new national franchises not make it to Texas?

No new ideas? Market saturation? Are the going concerns expanding?

Frankly, I’d like to see Mongolian Barbecue on-the-fly.

Well, Papa John’s is relatively recent and I know they’re national, and depending on if it counts as fast food Starbucks is also a recent addition. I don’t know enough about fast food overall to really answer the bigger questions, but I can throw out some apparently new stuff for you.

I’m not sure about how widespread these others are, but here are some fast food spots near me (these are all chains AFAIK). The first set are pretty recent additions, I think they’re new:

Quiznos Subs
Bear Rock Cafe (sandwiches)
Schlotsky’s Deli
Qdobo (Mexican food, one of my favorites)

These have been around for a little while, but I think they are less recent than yours:

Miami Subs
Jersey Mike’s subs
Bojangles Chicken (probably has been around a long time)

The big increase in fast food chains I have noticed is them being a part of convenience stores. One new one in Houston is A&W. The same as the root beer. I’m sure they have been around elsewhere.

Nix the Schlotsky’s. It started in Austin, Tx over 30 years ago. They have been a staple in TX for some time.

The fast food outlets you’re seeing are the ones that’ve had time to grow. Unless those restaurants started in your area you probably won’t see 'em until they hit franchise status.

Chryscia, you ask “Do new national franchises not make it to Texas?”
I remember a chain called “Taco Box” opening up a bunch of stores around Texas in the early '70’s before they went under. Right now there’s a small chain of Texas pizza places called “Double Dave’s” that are attempting to open up franchises in the Southwest.

IMHO the best fast food doesn’t come from fast food franchises. Those places have to homogenize the product to suit the tastes of great geographic masses.

And Chryscia, by being a Texan you DO have a franchise to hold in your heart…Whataburger!

I’ve noticed a few smaller, less known chains lately, but I think it takes them about 10 years to spread and actually get rich, and by that time, they’ve been around forever!

I’ll second the Papa John’s and the Quizno’s. All of a sudden, we got these weird fast-food restaurants making weird commercials…

Another one… what about Kookooroo’s? I’ve seen several around my area, and they’re a pretty good chicken place… what’s the deal with them? Have they been around for a while? I’m pretty sure I’d have remembered a name like that

There’s Checkers/Rally’s restaurants. They’re relatively new (about ten years old?) and yet relatively large (885 of them, nearly all in the eastern U.S.). (No, I am not recommending their food.) I suspect that’s about the limit of how fast a chain can grow. The only exception I can think of is Starbuck’s, which took about five years to grow from just being in Seattle to being all over the U.S.

A&W had drive-in restaurants in the Pittsburgh area from the 50s until some time in the 70s.

Joe Mahma, A&W drive-in restaurants still exist. There is one in Dodgeville, WI, for example.

I’m gonna third Quizno’s and Papa John’s and second Checkers/Rallys and add Blimpies to the list. A&W drive in’s have been around since at least the mid '70s in the St Louis area. I’ve seen Schlotsky’s for years. Papa John’s is my favorite pizza place mainly because they give you a tub of garlice butter and a pepper to go with every pizza. Blimpie’s is better than Subway although a bit harder to find. And I cry once a week because there are no Checkers, Rallys or White Castles in Omaha.
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Omaha has lost about 2/3rds of their Hardees’s in the last year or so. This after they switched to a more Carl’s Jr based food and I actually started to like Hardees. Then they all leave. This happen anywhere else? Are they ever gonna change their name to Carl’s Jr?
</slight hijack>

A new chain around here is Maui Taco. I am curently afraid to try them. Pineapple taco’s yuck. But I love Quizno’s and Blimpies.

deadOman most all the Hardees are closeing here but I’ve never heard of Carl’s Jr.

Papa John’s is certainly not that new. It’s been in this town for over 20 years.

As far as Maui Taco, they may have a trend I’ve been hearing about all over the place… Burritos with Mahi-Mahi in them. That’s right, FISH BURRITOS. Bleah.

Boston Chicken? Er, Boston Market, now. I think that qualifies as fast food …

When a market is new, you get lots of entries as soon as it’s seen to be viable. Following McDonald’s lead, a lot of new fast food franchise hopefuls popped up between 20 and 40 years ago. Now, it’s tougher to get your foot in that door-the room’s already pretty full. (I just made up that metaphor. Not bad, eh? :slight_smile: ) Failure rate is high enough now that it’s hard to get investors. And even if you start doing well, you’re likely to then get snapped up by one of the ‘big operators’, as happened to Boston Market …

Do we really need new fast-food franchises?

Carl’s Jr. is a burger joint which is very well known in the West (I’ll take the Western burger - it has BBQ sauce and a fried onion ring on it, and it’s delicious). The connection is that CKE Resturaunts owns both Hardee’s and Carl’s Jr. CK and Carl refer to founder Carl Karcher, who is also known for his support of right wing political causes.

The most recent arrival around here seems to be a chain tacqueria called Chipotle. They DO seem to make a good burrito.

Ladies and gentlemen, I give you:



(Ok, they’ve been big in the Philippines for about 25 years, but they just started putting up american stores a few years ago. Not sure if they’re going to catch on in middle america, but keep your eyes peeled!)

Columbus (the fast food capital of the country) and Orlando (very diverse demographics and a large tourist base) are used as test markets for mid-market fast food concepts.

Denver is used as a test market for upscale fast food chains. Chipotle and Qdoba got their start there; Baja Fresh is another burrito chain there. Kokoro, a Japanese fast food restaurant, is another that’s making inroads. Carl’s Jr. just arrived in Denver about four years ago; not upscale, but new.

Buffalo, New York is usually the last city in the U.S. to get an outlet of a growing or established chain; the economy is bad, the competition from local restaurants is still extremely strong, and there are few sites that meet the strict site selection criteria national chains use. A phrase commonly heard is “everywhere but Buffalo.” The area just got its first Chili’s (not fast food, I’ll admit) a couple of years ago, for instance, and Taco Bell returned after a long absense just five years ago. The majority of chains that are big everywhere (Macaroni Grill, Carraba’s, etc) are absent from the Buffalo market. Buffalo only has a few Wendy’s, a few Pizza Huts, a few ancient Dairy Queens, and believe it or not, Burger King outnumbers McDonalds there. Strange market.

There’s a ton of local fast food chains that are “culturally grounded,” for lack of better words, to a certain geographic area; Blake’s (New Mexico; the owner refuses to expand out-of-state), Whataburger (Texas and Las Cruces, New Mexico), In-and-Out Burger (California and Nevada), Mighty Taco (Western New York), Grandy’s (South Central states), Good Times (Colorado and Wyoming), Fatburger (California and Nevada), White Castle a few older industrial cities in the East and Midwest, and Bojangles (Southern states) come to mind. The Canadian chains, such as Harvey’s and Mr. Sub, never venture south of the border.

The South African chains are beginning to expand outside of Africa. Won’t be too long before Nando’s hits our shores.

Not a new trend at all. The Taco Del Mar chain (yes, that translates as “taco from the sea”) started here in Seattle ten years ago, with the owners basing their fish-taco recipe on stuff they’d had in Southern California years beforehand. It’s pretty tasty, too; the chain has been expanding slowly but inexorably throughout the Northwest.