Singapore saw the rise of fast food in the 1970s. In 1966, the first fast-food chain, the A&W Family Restaurant, opened here. The first A&W outlet, located on Dunearn Road, paved the way for the establishment of other fast-food restaurants. Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC) followed suit with the opening of its outlet in Somerset in 1977,1 and McDonald’s with its Liat Towers outlet on Orchard Road in 1979. Many new fast-food outlets like Hardee’s and Baskin-Robbins sprouted in the 1980s and ’90s.2 Now, a greater range of International cuisines are easily available. Ever since Pizza Hut came to Singapore in 1986, the concept of pizza delivery service has become popular.3
Development of the local fast-food industry
A&W, which stands for “Allen and Wright”, is America’s oldest franchise restaurant chain. In 1962, American couple Al and Geri Lieboff toured Southeast Asia and saw the opportunity of setting up business here. They bought an A&W franchise and opened an outlet, first in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, and then in Singapore in 1966.4 A&W introduced hamburgers, hotdogs and its brand of root beer, which was well received by Singaporeans. In 1970, they opened the drive-in A&W Family Restaurant on Bukit Timah Road.5
Although KFC opened in 1977, it did not make as big an entrance as McDonald’s when the latter opened its first outlet on 20 October 1979 at Liat Towers. The number of people who thronged the opening was so large that a world record was set for serving the highest volume of hamburgers in a single day. This record was held until the 1990s when it was broken by the McDonald’s opening in Beijing, China. McDonald’s made its inroad into the heartlands when it opened its first outlet in Hougang in May 1984. Today, one can find a McDonald’s restaurant in almost every part of the island. There are more than 100 McDonald’s outlets operating in Singapore with over 40 operating 24 hours, while KFC has more than 70 outlets.6
Another prominent player in the fast-food business is Burger King, which opened its first outlet in Singapore in 1982. By then, A&W was facing stiff competition and eventually closed down in Singapore 2003. There were also other fast-food chains that wanted a piece of the pie. Some survived, but many did not. The better-known ones that have since closed down include Texas Fried Chicken, Hardee’s, Wendy’s, Taco Bell, Wimpy’s, Milano’s Pizza, Shakey’s Pizza and Mr Potato.7
In recent times, McDonald’s and KFC have managed to enlarge their market by becoming halal. Certified halal by the Majlis Ugama Islam Singapura (MUIS; Islamic Religious Council of Singapore), these fast-food outlets comply with Muslim dietary requirements and are therefore able to penetrate the local Muslim market segment. The move towards serving halal food began in the early 1990s, but it took some time for them to obtain certification. To date, Long John Silver’s and Delifrance have also obtained halal certification.8
1. KFC. (n.d.). About us. Retrieved 2016, July 28 from KFC website: https://www.kfc.com.sg/about-us/our-story/
2. Four new fast food outlets to open next month. (1983, December 8). Singapore Monitor, p. 8. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
3. Ong, A. (2006, April 30). Pizza. The Straits Times, p. 32. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
4. Ho, B. (2005, February 19). A & W was fast-food king. The Straits Times, p. 13. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
5. Tan, A. (1985, February 11). A & W hungry like a bear for top spot in fast food. The Straits Times, p. 17. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
6 Burgers, French fries and diet coke [Blog post]. (2011, October 21). Retrieved 2016, August 1 from Remember Singapore website: https://remembersingapore.org/2011/10/21/burgers-french-fries-and-diet-coke/
7. Burgers, French fries and diet coke [Blog post]. (2011, October 21). Retrieved 2016, August 1 from Remember Singapore website: https://remembersingapore.org/2011/10/21/burgers-french-fries-and-diet-coke/
8. Yohanna Abdullah. (2009, December 14). Fast-food outlets give assurance on halal switch. The Straits Times, p. 32. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
Kong, L., & Sinha, V. (Eds). (2016). Food, foodways and foodscapes: Culture, community and consumption in post-colonial Singapore. Singapore ; New Jersey : World Scientific, pp. 211–217.
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The information in this article is valid as at 2008 and correct as far as we are able to ascertain from our sources. It is not intended to be an exhaustive or complete history of the subject. Please contact the Library for further reading materials on the topic.