Food: Fast Food Speeds up the Pace

Eating out is in, and the chains add variety to lure new diners

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Nevertheless, fast food has entrenched itself as part of the American diet. "It's not as good as home cooking, but it is convenient and fast," says Ray Dearmas, a Miami police officer and McDonald's frequenter. For Barb Santoro, 34, a separated parent in Milwaukee, fast food helps her manage a hectic schedule. "Sometimes I work nine or ten hours a day, so it's nice to stop and get the kids something. Frankly," she adds with a laugh, "they might not get anything to eat some days if it weren't for fast-food restaurants." It may not be gourmet eating, but Americans have grown accustomed to the pace. --By Richard Zoglin. Reported by Barbara Dolan/Chicago and Jon D. Hull/San Francisco, with other bureaus

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