Through the Years: The History of Takeout

Since the dawn of time, the human race has always looked for ways to make their lives better. Most of these improvements revolve around food.

TIME Magazine recently released an article about the history of the greatest achievement known to man – food delivery and takeout. Since human nature is to always evolve and improve upon the past, it was only a matter of time until people would figure out the most convenient ways to eat and have food thrust upon them.

And the delicious twin of take-out cuisine, delivery food, has existed for nearly as long and across just as many cultures. Butchers in 14th century Paris would frequently send their wares directly from the butcher’s block to the homes of the city’s well-to-do families, while cohorts of dabbawalla in Mumbai continue to deliver home-cooked lunches to hungry workers across the city as they have since at least the 19th century.

Although Europe implemented the idea of takeout and delivery services hundreds of years earlier, America took that idea and in classic United States of Awesome fashion, took most of the credit. The 40s and 50s saw families head to the ‘burbs which meant food transportation containers needed a massive overhaul. The first big invention was something that became instantly recognizable and is still part of the takeout zeitgeist today.

By 1977 they [Riegel Paper Company] had become Fold-Pak, the business that still produces the majority of the Chinese Take-Out containers used in the United States today. Along the way, the quintessential white, cardboard containers gained a vaguely Chinese red temple on their sides and became a symbol of fast, casual Chinese cuisine in America.

Of course this revolution of at-home ordering lead to the numero uno food ordering item. Pizza entered the American stratosphere shortly after WWII.

Hungry civilians were intrigued and even the New York Times took it upon itself to explain that this newly popular “pizza” was “a pie made from a yeast dough and filled with any number of different centers, each one containing tomatoes.” By 1944, restaurants in New York City offered pizza that could be “ordered to take home,” which were “packed, piping hot, in special boxes for that purpose.” 

From there, delivery transformed into the beast we now know it as. Obviously more restaurants began hopping on the delivery train, but so did other companies. Places like grocery stores have begun delivering, and the food delivery industry has provided a boom for new companies to emerge.

In recent years, the food delivery space has become one of the biggest and most lucrative in the tech world; in 2014, venture capitalists invested over $1 billion in the field, knowing full well that humans of whatever century will always be hungry—and will always be looking for a quick and convenient bite to eat.

For TIME’s full article, click here for the full history of takeout.

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