Wrapped Up In Chains

Fast-food restaurants are quietly taking over the world

Today Texaco, tomorrow the world.

Industry observers expect continued expansion of fast-food chains. In fact, Elms even finds it difficult to separate traditional sites from the kudzu-like express sites. "We operate in malls, we may have a cart at a Nascar race, or a co-branded division," he says. "How do you want to define nontraditional?" Branding, visibility, foot traffic--national chains live or die on this stuff, and their voracious appetites drive them deeper into our lives. Outback Steakhouse opened an outlet in a Houston high school. Pizza Hut, Taco Bell, Subway and others occasionally pop up in schools as well, although Deborah Owens, director of food operations and compliance for the Dallas Independent School District, believes that "kids get just as tired of that as they do of regular campus food." Hmm. A dull and oily Salisbury steak or a big taco salad. Yeah, she has a point.

"I think we've only scratched the surface for nontraditional settings," Gorodesky says. "In the near future even department stores will have quick-service. You'll see tremendous proliferation."

If we haven't already.

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