Fast Food

Fast-Food Bans Are a Dumb Idea That Won't Die

Food nannies won't let failure stop them from banning everything they can.


A growing number of American cities are banning new fast-food drive-thru windows, NPR reported last week.

While some activists tout the bans as a cure-all for much of what ails society, there's a lack of evidence to support these bans. What's more, research and anecdotal evidence suggest the bans are actually counterproductive.

Cities in at least four states have adopted drive-thru bans, Today reports. In Minneapolis, which banned new fast-food drive-thru windows in August, Today says proponents claim "curbing access to even faster fast food may help aid in reversing urban obesity rates, while also helping to improve road traffic accidents." While I have exactly no idea what an "improve[d]" traffic accident looks like, the first clause in the previous sentence gets at the heart of the matter: fast-food critics are using fake nutritional and environmental arguments to make it more difficult for consumers to eat fast-food.

Supporters of drive-thru bans, though, point to a recent study by Canadian researchers. That study, which looked at fast-food drive-thru bans in Canada, concluded such "bans may play a role in promoting healthier food environments."

But the devil is in the details. The most common purposes of the respective bans identified by the Canadian researchers were aesthetic in nature: improving walkability; reducing traffic; protecting community aesthetics; and "urban design." These policy goals were followed closely by reducing air and noise pollution. Unlike the Minneapolis ban—and others here in the United States—none of the 27 Canadian bans included in the study was intended to combat obesity, improve nutrition, or decrease the density of fast-food restaurants.

Critics of these unpopular policies are quick to point out why they don't work. Some argue the bans discriminate against people who are disabled, elderly, or traveling with children, for example. Others note that people will still drive to fast-food restaurants, then sit in their running cars while a family member or friend runs inside to pick up food. Or a driver might drop off a person to pick up a meal and circle the restaurant in their car while that person is in line. In either case, the result is likely more pollution than might have occurred had the driver simply joined the drive-thru queue.

Research has also poked giant holes in drive-thru bans. As I've noted previously—and The Atlantic, Governing, and others have, too—a 2008 Los Angeles ban that targeted fast-food restaurants in South Los Angeles, where roughly nine of every 10 residents is Latino or black—was a disaster. Obesity ramped up after the ban, which critics rightly dubbed condescending, racist, and counterproductive. Slate's Will Saletan called the South Los Angeles fast-food ban "food apartheid."

Last week's NPR report cites RAND's Roland Sturm, whose research savaged the South Los Angeles ban. He calls drive-thru bans "ridiculous."

"We need to be careful not to overstate what these bans can do," Sturm told NPR. "If we want to lower obesity and want people to be healthier, [drive-through bans] are not going to achieve that."

What's more, research published in 2015 suggests people may consume more calories when they dine in restaurants than they do when they order takeout.

Several years ago, I opined that socially engineering food choices is a lousy policy that doesn't work. That's as true today as it was then—even if policymakers continue to ignore the facts. Fast-food drive-thru bans are really just another lame excuse to limit choice while claiming falsely to be combating obesity or protecting the environment.

NEXT: The Creek Nation and the Culture of Consent 

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  1. Home delivery of fast-food also banned in 3, 2, 1, ….

    1. Ah, but only in “certain” neighborhoods!

    2. What fast fooderie delivers?

      1. Every pizza joint with delivery is fast food. Plenty of diners near me that deliver.

      2. Grub hub, door dash, Uber eats all deliver fast food.

      3. Off the top of my head I can think of KFC, Taco Bell, and Chic-Fil-A having advertisements stating such on their buildings. Chic-Fil-A has a decked-out van for deliveries.

        1. The one here delivers through door dash. They also have a van for catering orders. McDonalds here also delivers through door dash.

    3. I’d hope that the food nannies would foresee that a delivery ban would be a political disaster, impinging on people with limited mobility, who would scream bloody murder. I would HOPE.

      But I don’t really expect them to.

      1. Yeah, but they can save the gimps from themselves.

      2. At the same time, they’ll subsidize a meals-on-wheels program. And of course they’ll have various government functions catered.

  2. Just cannot allow anyone to make politics into a career. Vote everyone out, every time.

    1. Better yet, vote to eliminate the office itself.

    2. Require a concealed carry permit to run; no democrats.

    3. Bring back the spoils system. It’s the rule-making unelected bureaucrats who need to have term limits.

  3. Could someone please explain the mechanics of this to me? How do drive-thru bans promote obesity?

    1. It appears, however, that it will obstruct Moms and Dads who want to quickly pick up food and then go home to eat it around the family dinner table with the kids, and maybe learn something about how their day went at school, what they learned, and the like.

    2. Why not just make being fat illegal? Get to big, go to jail. Problem solved.

  4. Okay, smartass, if we’re not going to pass laws banning drive-thru service, what laws should we pass to force people to do what they’re told to do? Or are you one of those anarchists that believe we don’t need laws at all and that corporations should just be free to feed rat poison to their customers to their heart’s content?

    See, I’m smart enough to follow the government guidelines and I’ve cut meat and fat almost totally out of my diet and subsist mostly on macaroni and cheese, Snickers bars and fruit smoothies (sweetened with nutritious honey, brown sugar, sucrose and evaporated cane juice, none of that nasty white sugar for me!) but very few people are as smrt as me so they need to be nudged with a pointied stick to do the right thing.

    1. You see, the only problem with drive-thru bans is that they don’t work, not that the whole idea is evil.

      1. the whole idea is evil.

    2. Not bad, but still no OBL.

  5. I will not allow….

  6. I am making 10,000 Dollar at home own laptop .Just do work online 4 to 6 hour proparly . so i make my family happy and u can do

    …….. Read More

    1. That’s not allowed!

    2. And all without being able to spell. God bless America.

  7. A pox on all do-gooder nanny activists.

    And I wonder how many supporters of fast-food drive-through bans (or even fast-food bans) are sitting in their cars right now at Starbucks drive-through queues.

    1. See, that’s the thing. The nannies want to ban McD’s, Burger King, Sonic, KFC, et al. But don’t even think about coming near their local hipster/upscale joints that serve literally the same greasy, sugary crap. Ban bacon cheeseburgers that poor people can afford, but keep your hands off my $20 grass-fed local-beef bacon cheeseburger with organic hand-massaged Yukon Gold fries available at this trendy chef-hole decorated in rustic barn planks! Ban Dunkin Donuts, but don’t you dare close down the yupster Starbucks or Top Pot or Voodoo Donut!

      1. Sonic doesn’t have a drive-through. It’s a drive-in.

  8. Took a look at the Canadian study referenced. It’s amazing that all of these bans take place in the same provinces of British Columbia, Alberta and Ontario, with just 3 of them coming from the Eastern parts of Canada. Plus, I’m not even sure Toronto needed the ban with how congested it already is.

  9. It seemed to me that Boris Johnson was in a really good position after making a deal with the EU that seemed to settle the issues around the border in northern Ireland. Now that parliament has rejected that deal, Johnson is in an excellent position to call an election. The conservatives have a ten point lead in the polls, last I checked, and there is no good reason to think that Johnson is unlikely to come back from an election with a majority.

    It’s always tempting to imagine that the things that happen elsewhere in the developed world are happening independently of whatever is happening in the United States, but the fact is that the entire developed world is subject to the same economic, cultural, and political forces. It’s not that the populist reactions to elitism that emerged in France, Italy, Germany, the UK, and the USA circa 2016 were coordinated internationally by politicians or voters. It’s just that people in all those countries were reacting to the same elitism with populism.

    We’re not in the EU, but American elitists are also doubling down on the elitism for 2020.

    1. I’m wishing ole Boris good luck with the Halloween jailbreak. If he can manage to drag the rest of the Britons out, some of them screaming and demanding their comforting blanket of regulations, no doubt. Can’t say I like the guy very much (he’s certainly no libertarian) but he’s doing what he can to make Britain a little freer, it seems to me.

  10. Only two days left until the good people of Canada decide whether they should oust their pretty-boy blackface junior grade Block Yomomma clone!

    1. But he’s so dreamy!

  11. “…while also helping to improve road traffic accidents.””

    We all need improved accidents. Last one I had hardly dented a fender.

  12. Another one. No one died luckily.

    An Aurora police officer allegedly shot a 22-year-old man in the back through a window in the man’s home Oct. 10, an attorney familiar with the matter told The Sentinel Tuesday.

    “It’s crazy,” said Denver criminal defense attorney Birk Baumgartner.”They shot him through a window in the back.”

    Baumgartner said officers did not announce they were outside the house of Andy Huff, 22, in the city’s Side Creek neighborhood nor identify themselves as police officers prior to the shooting last Thursday. He said one officer opened fire, shooting five times into the house and striking Huff in the buttocks.

    1. Did they attend the same “shoot the homeowner through a window from the backyard before announcing your presence” training as the Fort Worth PD?

    2. Attempted murder, minimum.

      1. That might be too much to charge Huff. How about felony standing inside one’s own house?

  13. Who supports these bans? How stupid are these politicians? Most Americans love the convenience of a drive through now and then. Such nonsense from city leaders is only possible because most people don’t pay attention to the actions of local government.

    1. Actually, many do pay attention at the local level, but only for their pet issue or project. The local officials then get accustomed to implementing one wacky plan after another.

  14. The core issue is not ‘will these bans do what they are propertied to do?’ but ‘what goddamned business is it of these buttinskies?’. The people pushing this kind of social engineering need to be told “F*ck off, f*ck directly off. Do not pass go, do not collect your unearned feelings of moral superiority.”

    The Self-appointed Elite learned NOTHING from the failure of Prohibition, have learned NOTGHING from the continuing failure fo the War On Drugs, are so excited about pushing smokers around that they almost cream in their shorts over it.

    They really are revolting ninnies.

    1. But some critical percent of humans LIVE to tell others what to do.

      1. Oh, my, yes! And the progress of human civilization (or regress for that matter) can be measured in the degree to which the common man can tell his so-called ‘betters’ to go climb a tree.

    2. I had the same reaction. Why is a libertarian publication tying itself in knots as to whether the goals are actually achieved, as opposed to arguing that people should be free to eat what they want?

  15. The word tax is out, the words mandates and bans are in. Congestion taxes, gas taxes while banning drive throughs will put these places out of business. The more business or franchises the progs can kill, the more serfs and refugees sucking on government progs for survival. The final dream…kill privately owned transportation and self defense. We can all get on the trains that go wherever the dictators say we can go (a central planners berlin wall or North Korea utopia to keep us in). We will all be equally impoverished except for the slimeslug fucktards swimming around that D.C. swamp with state and local governments.

  16. I think the new bans are not about obesity, but to reduce the carbon footprint, because you won’t have cars idling for 20 minutes in the drive through lane.

    1. It’s also to cut down on child sex trafficking. See, if you’ve got a child hog-tied in the trunk of your car, you can easily slip through the drive-thru but if you have to park, get them out of the trunk, untie them, let them stretch a bit, take them into the Mickey D’s, take them back out to the parking lot, tie them back up, load them back in the car – go through all that and you’re just going to say screw it, I ain’t sex trafficking no kids.

      1. Course it can be a little awkward when the drive-up window guy gives you a funny look when he hears the kicking and muffled screams coming from the trunk. Last time I just told them I had an injured deer in there I rescued and was taking it to the vet.

  17. Isn’t banning drive-thru windows a form of fat shaming?

    1. Some of the people who work those windows aren’t fat.

    2. If you can fit through the window you are ok.

  18. It has nothing to d with anything except controlling other people’s lives. That is what get the socialists off.

  19. I haven’t seen one of those drive-thru places where you could get beer, snacks and stuff for a while. They were pretty common where I grew up. Across the bridge there was a drive up window liquor store.

    Anyway our suburban city finally loosened up and is allowing more drive up fast food. Recently added Starbucks, Chik fil A and a Wendy’s is going in.

  20. City planners mostly have unrealistic concepts of what the community actually is. They want to take an ordinary working suburb or city and turn it into downtown Aspen. It never works.

    So they restrict development and the types of business people really want like drive through or a discount grocery and come up with these concepts about turning Main St. into a cute historic district instead of fixing the traffic problem on Rt. 8

  21. “City planners mostly have unrealistic concepts of what the community actually is. They want to take an ordinary working suburb or city and turn it into downtown Aspen.”

    Would these be the same city planners who live on an acre and a half and commute to their downtown job?

  22. What needs to be banned is the social safety net that pays for the health problems of people who eat fast food.

    1. And those who don’t eat fast food since they are perpetually healthy.

  23. 90% of fast food is what people would eat as slow food anyway. I’m making spaghetti and meatballs for myself and my housemate today, how different is that from a hamburger? Same Coke I would’ve been drinking at a burger joint too. Salad on the side instead of lettuce and tomato on the hamburger. And what’s the difference whether I order via drive-on or drive to the supermarket? So I don’t get how they think they’re influencing people’s diets by altering the format they buy food by.

    The only part of it I can see is that drivers will be less distracted if they aren’t trying to eat and drive.

  24. “A growing number of American cities are banning new fast-food drive-thru windows, NPR reported last week.
    Supporters of drive-thru bans, though, point to a recent study by Canadian researchers. That study, which looked at fast-food drive-thru bans in Canada, concluded such “bans may play a role in promoting healthier food environments.”

    I think the new bans will not be effective. People really like fast food.

  25. I don’t get this. Why do governments think it’s their job to determine what we eat? I am smart enough to know that when I go to McD’s I’m not getting a “healthy” meal. That’s why I only go every once in a while. Honestly, usually after a reaaaaaaally long mountain bike ride when my body is craving calories and grease. Let people decide. Governments that have time to regulate what we eat are governments that need to have a significant portion of their staff cut.

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