For example, TheStreet recently dispatched Keris Alison Lahiff to a New York City Taco Bell where she -- no joke -- ordered and tried "one of everything" including the oft-advertised waffle taco:
For those keeping tabs, I consumed a total 2,305 calories and 141.5g of fat in one sitting. Spare me your judgement; my 8-hour resulting nausea was punishment enough.
Sounds like fun, but it's no joke for investors. Consider something else Keris pointed out in her story:
... sales (at McDonalds) between (6:00am and) 10:30am comprise 20% of total revenue ... the burger giant holds a 31% share of a robust $5-billion on-the-go breakfast market.
That explains why the space has become so crowded. It's not just McDonalds, Starbucks and Taco Bell, but the donut shops enter the mix as well. From Dunkin' Donuts (DNKN) to the westward moving chain Canadians go nuts over -- Tim Hortons (THI).
As much as I love watching chains battle -- and have come to think of them as less evil than I did back in the day -- there's nothing like a quality local business. Not only are they distinct to a particular location, but they bring character it's difficult for national shops to duplicate. Starbucks has probably done the best job of creating worthy environments, but even they can't come close to the look and feel of a solid, well-placed and well-run local shop.
The best ones produce menu items that look just as over the top as Taco Bell's waffle taco, but -- relatively speaking -- provide a better culinary experience. I tend to shun fast food because it almost never fails that I feel like crap after eating it. When you order what amounts to gluttonous food porn at a strong local restaurant, there's at least the chance that's not going to happen.
Not a failsafe obviously, but if you do your research (Yelp (YELP) is best for this -- hands down) you can easily pick the diamonds from the heartburn-inducing rough.
So, with that in mind and without any further adieu, crank it, yank it and rip the knob off ...