Find Out the Fast Food Differences in Germany Compared to the US

One of the best or worst things about America, depending on your viewpoint, is the prevalence of so many fast food places in even the smallest of towns.  From the chain places like McDonald’s, Burger King, Taco Bell, etc. to local burger or pizza places, America does not lack for easily finding fast food. In fact, in some places, driving along any town’s main street, it is not too uncommon to see one right after the other. Fast food has become very popular because it is both “fast” and “cheap”….note, the word “food” is maybe a little to be desired here. As a culture that is always on the go, the fast food industry has continued to expand just as fast as the American waistlines.

Instead of focusing on the negatives of fast food, this is a post to identify the types of fast food found in Germany. While the golden arches are here in Germany, there are some differences regarding the type of fast food found in Germany. This difference is determined by the cultural association that food plays in the overall German society.

In an unscientific survey, I would estimate that the most popular American fast food restaurants found in Germany are as follows (by number of locations that I have seen):  Subway, McDonald’s, Burger King, Starbuck’s, KFC, and Pizza Hut.  The last three are definitely not as popular regarding number of locations compared to the first three.  Other than these six places, I have not seen any other American fast food places in Germany.  In the larger cities, there may be more than one location for each of these places, and maybe only one in the small to mid-size cities.  In the smallest of towns, good luck in finding any!  Compare THAT to the US, where it is easy to find multiple McDonald’s locations within a few miles of each other.

As far as other American chain restaurants, these are even fewer to find:  Berlin has a Tony Roma’s, Frankfurt has a Chipotle Mexican Grill, and there are a few Hard Rock Cafe’s here and there. Other German locations for “American” food which would be hamburgers, pizza, fries, etc. would be “American-themed” diners or restaurants. These are typically found in areas popular with American tourists or near the US military bases.

The six main American fast food places found in Germany are mainly found in buildings along a pedestrian area, in some larger train stations, and in some of the break areas found along one of the Autobahns. The “Drive Thru”, an American invention, are at some McDonald’s & Burger Kings, but that is all.  Drive Thrus are not common in Germany!  To prove this, a “cup holder” in a car is an “optional” feature here, compared to a standard feature in America. In fact, I do not think I have ever seen anyone in Germany either drinking or eating anything, while driving. But, then again, the last thing you want to do is have a hot bag of french fries in your lap, a burger in one hand, and a tag team of your other free hand and knee driving a car going 130 miles per hour!!

As far as a food comparison between these six places in Germany versus the US, the menus are basically the same. There may be a few selection differences like the example of a tuna pizza at Pizza Hut. And, as far as taste, the menu items taste about the same with the differences coming from the mayonnaise & ketchup (because fructose corn syrup is not allowed in most of Europe), the bread is not as “fluffy” (I think again due to some additives not allowed in Germany), and anything with lettuce & tomatoes (tomatoes taste so much better because, most are naturally grown and taste like they are straight from a small garden).

While I have yet to find any fast food Mexican places, you can make your own tacos, as most of the larger grocery stores have an "international" shelf, where you can buy taco seasonings.
While I have yet to find any fast food Mexican places, you can make your own tacos, as most of the larger grocery stores have an “international” shelf, where you can buy taco seasonings.
Easy to find a walk up stand selling various types of sausages (wurst)
Easy to find a walk up stand selling various types of sausages (wurst)

There are other types of “fast” food places found in Germany however. But, before looking at these, we have to mention a couple of differences between American & German culture. America is a “car” culture versus the German “public transport” culture. As a result, most “fast” food type places are found near public transportation stops and along the town pedestrian areas. Also, because the culture in Germany is people that are not in a hurry like in the US, it is rare to see a German even walking while eating. For a German, food is meant to be enjoyed in the company of good friends and a nice glass of wine or beer.

That being said, in Germany, the main fast food item would be anything sold at a local bakery. While the States may have competing fast food places on the same street block; here in Germany you will find competing Bakeries. All of the Bakeries sell various assortments of breads (brötchen) either plain or as a small sandwich (belegte brötchen), various types of pasteries, as well as coffee. Bakeries are your quintessential fast food places in that the food is delivered fast and usually inexpensive.

bread

Another fast food is thanks to an import of the many Turkish citizens in Germany, and this is the wonderfully delicious Döner Kebab (usually lamb meat placed within a flatbread). Most Döner places are walk-up window stands where you place your oder with the toppings you would like. The meat is cooked vertically so the fat drains off the meat, and the attendant will cut the slices direct off the meat and place them inside a warm flatbread pita. The toppings are lettuce, tomato, onions with a dill-type of sauce. They can be messy to eat, but oh so delicious!

Ordering a Döner Kebab and watching the meat being sliced off the lamb is divine
Ordering a Döner Kebab and watching the meat being sliced off the lamb is divine
Warning: the Döner can be a little messy to eat, but tastes oh so good!
Warning: the Döner can be a little messy to eat, but tastes oh so good!

Nordsee is a fast food type place that sells seafood, mainly breaded fillets. Nordsee offers fish sandwiches, but most will get a type of fish plate with usually pommes frites (french fries), and possibly some vegetables. It reminds me of a Long John Silvers back home.

Nordsee offers up quick and tasty fish meals, whether a sandwich or just a fillet, both are delicious and served with fries, pasta or veggies.
Nordsee offers up quick and tasty fish meals, whether a sandwich or just a fillet, both are delicious and served with fries, pasta or veggies.

In Germany, next to the Döner, the most popular fast food has to be Currywurst!! Basically, this is a pork sausage (bratwurst) that is cooked, sliced and covered in curry sauce, which is a type of ketchup with curry powder mixed in. While the description does not sound appetizing, I can say that this is an especially delicious treat, especially on a cold day during a street festival.

Currywurst.  The sausage (wurst) can either be Weiß (white) or Rot (red). The wurst is cooked, sliced and covered in a ketchup type sauce, then sprinkled with curry powder. It is served temperature hot, but I do not find it that spicy.  Typically, currywurst is served with french fries (pommes frites) ...note that in Germany, fries typically come with mayonnaise and  not ketchup.  Then, to eat it, you are given a very small wooden or plastic stick with two prongs on the end. This is THE MOST POPULAR fast food in Germany
Currywurst. The sausage (wurst) can either be Weiß (white) or Rot (red). The wurst is cooked, sliced and covered in a ketchup type sauce, then sprinkled with curry powder. It is served temperature hot, but I do not find it that spicy. Typically, currywurst is served with french fries (pommes frites) …note that in Germany, fries typically come with mayonnaise and not ketchup. Then, to eat it, you are given a very small wooden or plastic stick with two prongs on the end. This is THE MOST POPULAR fast food in Germany

Regarding German fast food, the above covers  I would say at least 75% of the type of fast food found here. The remaining would be regional fares found throughout Germany, like Pretzels in Bavaria. Also, there are several places that sell Chinese and Indian food, but neither tastes quite the same as back in the US.

And, let’s not forget about pizza. There are a lot of pizza places in Germany, but as an American and as one who has lived a few years in New Jersey, these pizzas do not taste anything like back home in the States. But, if I find myself really craving an American pizza, I will venture into Mannheim and stop by Pizza Hut.

While pizza is not typically a fast food, there are places that will serve by the slice. If in the southwestern part of Germany like we are, a must try is Flammkuchen, which is a type of pizza with almost a cracker-type crust and instead of a tomato sauce has a cream-cheese type sauce....yeah, it's good
While pizza is not typically a fast food, there are places that will serve by the slice. If you are in the southwestern part of Germany like we are, a must try is Flammkuchen, which is a type of pizza with almost a cracker-type crust and instead of a tomato sauce has a cream-cheese type sauce….yeah, it’s good

While there are fast food places in Germany, they are just not as common as they are in the US. Outside the American establishments that are here, the German fast food places seem to offer more of what I would call “real” food, as opposed to a 99 cent hamburger or taco that are a little questionable as if it is real food or not. The attitude about fast food is greatly different in Germany than in the US, but if you are in a hurry or just want to try something German, stop by for a Currywurst…..just don’t drive while eating!!

Also, if you want to know more about differences in German vs. American food that I have experienced, check out my other blog post here….  or, if there is a fast food place or food type that I missed in Germany, we would love to hear your comments.

GUTEN APPETIT!!!

6 Replies to “Find Out the Fast Food Differences in Germany Compared to the US”

  1. Hey do you taste German foods? Do you miss German foods, right? But I say simple old beknown eating German Festival Food like mashed potatoes, cow scrollers, red cabbage, sprouts, carrots and gravy. It is very nice. Flammkuchen is made by France. Elsässer Flammkuchen is cooker from Freiburg. I love to eat only Elsässer Flammkuchen because i was tasted since my primary school from village Stegen near Freiburg and i eat always up to today because German Foods are very delicious. That’s correct. “Guten Appetit!” Lassen Sie lecker zu schmecken! 😉

    American Foods are very sweet – i don’t like American Foods because maybe unhealthy foods like almost sweets can make sick to people. German Foods are before fore eating like salads main eating like whole foods example pizza, German Foods or other foods, dessert like yoghurt or apple, banana or strawberries.

    German eat typical nice and good foods because Germany has a lot of good cookers.

    Liebe Grüße aus Deutschland
    Best greeting from Germany,

    Jens E.

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    1. Thanks, Jens for your comment. Yes, I agree! American food is so sweet, and I can really notice the difference when I go back home to the States after eating German food for so long. And, I agree…Germany has a lot of good cookers 🙂

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  2. Fast food here in the US has changed so much from Dad’s time when things were actually made fresh before processed food became norm.

    McDonalds was the first to use the heat lamp method of *warming* things up and microwaves in the 70s and other joints followed suit in the 80s/90s but portions were still larger and it really did require two hands to lift up a standard burger. Not the double.

    All the food now is filled with artificial stuff that didn’t used to exist when Dad was a kid in the 60s and even when I was a young child to some extend in the 90s. GMO is hard to digest and has a lot of controversy and I think in Europe it’s banned if not heavily regulated unlike here where it’s free 4 all.

    Even ordering large amounts of food for a family of three we could afford it in the 90s easily not going above 10$ as the total for everybody and back when banks had ATM cards Dad would get a 20$ out and it didn’t go so fast.

    Now it’s often 6-10$ for just ONE PERSON unless you really skimp out and the food quality is worse then anytime in the 90s as it’s all owned by the rich 1 percents who own all these companies and pull the levers.

    The USA is now mostly a service sector economy which means no real incentive to grow as not enough money goes in and the smart people who figure it out leave for higher ground.

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  3. Here is an old Burger King ad back when they used flame broiled burgers. This is for chicken tenders which was very filling indeed in those days.

    I’ll try an embedded version if it works here.

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  4. That fluffy bread is not natural. You have it more the natural way without corn syrup and not so fattening.

    Look at any video of people in the 80s and even 90s which there was hardly any fat people and if there were they stuck out like a sore thumb. It was embarrassing back then to be fat yet people ate out all the time as much as today.

    If not more because the economy was way better and there was actually a still functional middle class which was starting to struggle but most weren’t aware of the laws that were being sneaked in to get rid of jobs.

    US Congress felt from the late 1960s and onwards that American can never fall as an empire so shelling out to cheap labor would never hurt anything at least nothing more then temporary and to this day still have that mindset.

    That hasn’t changed but Trump is a ? mark against the Establishment Order and they are unsure which maneuver to play against him. Trump is like a giant joker card sticking out of their ass.

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