Another contributing factor to the demise of the individual "roadfood" type of business, be it restaurant or grocery,
Americans as a group are becoming much more 'time-aware'. How far isn't measured in miles (or meters). It is more and more being measured in "elapsed time to get there". The Scenic Byways and Blue Highways are relegated to those crammed times of year known as Vacation Time. Otherwise, it is the shortest and fastest route to wherever we are going that is the choice of the traveler.
We want the food to be located next to a fuel stop...Just off the end of an on/off ramp back to the Racetrack/Interstate. Who can afford the land at those prime development locations? The Corporate Chain Operation. Then add the Drive-thru that now is much more than a burger-joint business window and you get a feel for the direction that the whole business is taking.
Same goes for the purchase of unprepared(?) food. The day of going from Butcher to Baker to Candlestick Maker(
) is all but done except for some few Americans. The majority (and this is expanding) look for the "One-Stop" shopping to fill their needs as quickly and effortlessly as possible. That has been the reason that the SuperCenter and SuperK and other such large chain operations have grown so quickly. If Americans can go to WalMart, get food, a haircut, dry-cleaning and photoprinting, Pharmcey needs and the oil changed in their cars in ONE Stop between dropping off and picking up the kids from Soccer practice...think of the time they will save !
We have just begun to peek into this whole concept of what things will be like in this area in the future. Some places say "call ahead" and they will run the meals out to your car when you arrive (expanded drive-up concept). How about the grocery chain that allows you to walk virtual aisles in the store using your home (or Office) computer, and have your cursor click on items just like grabbing them off the shelf and putting them in your cart. Many businesss are doing this already (Amazon.Com for one), but the grocery area is just getting started. After selecting, you pay on-line and then drive by and they load your 'stuff' into your car from a drive-thru window type of arrangement. No more time-consummingparking/walking thru the store/ and standing in line to check out.
Have any of you SoCal Roadfooders used your FAST-TRAC Transponders to pay for fast-food at the foodstands that are now equipped to charge your account for the burgers you will eat while you drive on the Orange-County Toll Roads?
How many of you have ever sent an "E-card" in place of going to a store, selecting and buying a birthday card, and mailing it in the Postal Mail? This sort of purchase is another element in the 'save time' realm.
This post isn't meant to create controversy. It is a 'guesstimate" of one of the factors contributing to the changes we see coming.