Are Fast Food Standards Slipping?

As Takeaway Truth's Hall of Shame has shown, fast food often resembles a dog’s breakfast – with a taste to match. Whether your guilty “pleasure” of choice is pizza, burgers or fried chicken, the results are invariably a careless, slipshod mess. Is it just us, or are the ingredients and presentation actually getting worse? Discuss.

Fast food picture from Shutterstock

Granted, fast food has never been considered haute cuisine but we can’t help but feel that standards have slipped a little in recent years. I can't remember the last time I received a well constructed burger from a big chain restaurant and hot chips are even worse -- they used to taste delicious while now they just fill a hole.

We’re not sure what's changed to be honest. Could inadequate staff training be to blame? Or does the fault lie in cost-cutting measures? Maybe it's the industry’s push towards healthier cooking practices, which usually translates to blander food. (The use of vegetable oil in place of beef tallow is one obvious example of this.)

Whatever it is, there seems to have been a marked drop in quality, particularly when it comes to appearance, taste and assembly. At least, that's been our experience throughout Takeaway Truth. (For the record, we do try to shop at different outlets, so it's unlikely that an individual store is to blame.)

As always, we’re keen to hear what our readers think. Have the major takeaway chains experienced a drop in quality? Or are we just having a string of appallingly bad luck? Vote in our poll below!

Also feel free to share your opinion in the comments section below. We’d particularly like to hear about the worst takeaway meal you've eaten in recent memory along with what made it so bad. If we're lucky, someone in charge of quality control might see and take notice!


    I think the only fast food chain (in my opinion) that has been consistently BAD anywhere around the world is Hungry Jacks / Burger King. As long as I can remember they have had stale buns, overcooked or burnt patties and rotten salad with hardly any sauce. I have yet to find an outlet of theirs that makes a good quality difference. Yet every year I try to go to one, an outlet I have not been to yet to see if they have improved but I end up being disappointed every time.

    I don't go that often for fast food, it's more of an impulse thing with me whenever I crave some chips. (excuse me, french fries) But when I do decide to go for some fast foods, I will always go to the places that have at least served me well in the past, food and service wise.

      In general I'd agree but their German outlets would be the exception.

        German Burger King is bliss! I remember chilli cheese bites... :)

    I tend to engage in rosy retrospection so I wouldn't trust my n=1. Even so on this I don't generally feel a slip in standards.

    What would be a good indicator is a large N 1-10 rating taken over increments of time. I'm not sure if that would counteract rosy retrospection (I'll leave that to the study desogners) but it would give us a better picture of what we actually used to think (rather than what we think we used to think) versus what we think now.

    You could also tie that to some more objective test (some sort of reporting on standards or food safety). That would be interesting. It's anyone aware of anything like this?

      Oh one thing I always think is that the burgers have gotten smaller but...I'm comparing their relative size from when I was 8 to now at 30.

    This has been happening ever since the GFC, which is still going
    I've definitely noticed smaller servings and poorer ingredients at restaurants that used to be much more generous, so now I only cook for myself, cheaper and tastier too

    Some food producers (packaged foods) have been switching to slightly smaller packages and cutting corners (filler ingredients) to counter inflation and keep the price the same, when they can't do that then they raise prices

    Also if you're making minimum wage, you're probably thinking of other things than making a nice looking hamburger, everyone is getting stretched thin financially

    And we haven't even faced the major brunt of the economic crisis yet when currencies start failing
    It'll make the great depression look like a picnic
    The arab spring was set off by food prices

    Your tastes probably (hopefully) get more discerning as you get older. So the fast food standards may still be the same, you just perceive them to be crappier as time goes by.

      This excuse is so common, they'll explain it away as nostalgia, rose tinted glasses and that it's always been like that

      Howbout the food has changed, have you ever thought of that!!
      Maybe it's cause I know what food is supposed to taste like because I grow my own!

      And not just in food, people will say things like "bad music has always existed, so today's music is no different", but there's never been as much awful music before at any single period of time.

      They're usually the same kind of cretins that cry over Peppa Pig getting cancelled and have never seen a hand drawn cartoon or a film with story :P

        But Peppa Pig is adorable!

        Last edited 29/05/14 3:46 pm

          No! It's a form of child abuse!
          Peppa can go to hell!
          Also all the faces look like penis

          Why would you choose that simple mushy stuff over stuff like this

          Make the kids watch Pingu, the proper claymation ones

    Are Fast Food Standards Slipping?Are you serious...? :)

    adorable and delicious.....The Peppa Pig Burger.... like a McRib except with a family and a face...would love to see the kiddies reactions when they open their McHappy box for that...

    Just at Red Rooster today, got a Quarter Chicken meal. Since when is a full leg a quarter of a chicken???
    Good news is I get a free meal tomorrow :)

    Heh, with the McDonalds question wossname there were hundreds of variations of 'Why are your burgers smaller these days?'

    Answer - they aren't. And no matter how many times they say it (and if they lied ACCC would have a field day) people just won't believe it.

    Seriously, it's good for a chuckle.

    Last edited 29/05/14 8:02 pm

      This article from 2009 says different.

      McDonald's has confirmed the buns have been shrunk from a 4.5-inch bun (11.43 cm) to a 4-inch bun (10.16 cm).
      The buns of the Quarter Pounder, Double Quarter Pounder and McChicken burgers have all been reduced to ensure the products sold in Australia are the same as overseas.

      Here's the link.

    fast food has always been hit and miss, unfortunately it is typically the staff. I have worked there it is dead simple and took almost no time to make better assembled burgers and run the kitchen clean. However it takes a fair bit of time to train staff and the typical person who is a career burger flipper isn't always the greatest (there were a few exceptions).

    i am more disappointed with the 'premium' end of fast food now, grill'd has really gone down hill since franchise, it looks like the patties are half the size of what they should be. Nando's isn't much better relying on over powering sauce to hide the fact they seem to have forgotten most of the meat.

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