Questions 23-33 refer to the following information.
The Changing Face of Fast Food
Over the last two decades there 23 are a number of studies that have shown a strong correlation between the rise of fast food restaurants in the United States and the rise of obesity. Partly in response to this epidemic, a new trend has taken off in the restaurant business: "fast casual" food. It's difficult to precisely define what fast casual is, but it generally refers to restaurants that offer the traditional quick preparation and counter service of fast food at a slightly higher price point, with a focus on fresh, high-quality ingredients. Though many fast casual restaurants have menus that focus on a particular healthy type of food, such as salads or vegan foods, others offer the traditional burgers-and-fries fast food fare. But even fast casual burger joints 24 are often still cheaper than going to a sit-down restaurant.
It is generally agreed that Chipotle Mexican Grill started the fast casual trend when it opened its first restaurant in Denver in 1993. The chain grew 25 quickly. Driven by customers who were attracted to its fresh menu and sustainably sourced ingredients. Many within the fast food industry took notice—McDonald's even became a major investor—and the fast casual movement was born. 26
Fast casual's focus on high-quality ingredients is working. During the 2007–2009 recession, spending in the restaurant business declined for two 27 unbending years. 28 In fact, during that same period, fast casual business grew by double digits. Traditional fast food restaurants are changing in response. McDonald's, which is now a competitor of 29 Chipotle, having sold its interest in the burrito business in 2006, announced recently that it is making the switch from frozen burger patties to fresh meat for its Quarter Pounders at most of its restaurants. This comes after the company recently eliminated high fructose corn syrup from 30 they're buns and announced a plan to transition to using only eggs from cage-free chickens.
While the move to cage-free eggs has the potential to make a big impact on how chicken farms are run, it does nothing to address one of the bigger problems of fast food: 31 therefore, its lack of nutritional value. Critics also 32 question whether increasingly fast casual restaurants are actually healthy? The typical meal from Chipotle, for example, contains over 1,000 calories and a full-day's allowance of sodium. But 33 change is slowly coming. The pressure that fast casual restaurants are putting on their more traditional counterparts as well as the growing number that truly do serve healthy food are indications that consumers are paying more attention to what they put in their mouths and that the restaurant industry is responding.