UrbanTurf Reader Asks: Why is So Much Fast Food Coming to DC?

by UrbanTurf Staff

In this week’s installment of UrbanTurf Reader Asks, a reader asks a question, unrelated to real estate, but one that we have wondered about ourselves in recent weeks: Why are so many fast food places now choosing to open up shop in DC?

Shake Shack arrives early next year.

Forgive me, as this question is not about real estate in DC, but it is a question that I believe is worth asking given the rash of news regarding openings of fast food restaurants in the DC area in recent months.

Why the sudden onslaught?

Obvously the news that has everyone buzzing is the 2011 arrival of Shake Shack, but IHOP, Chick-Fil-A, Fatburger, and Bojangles have all announced that they are coming to the area in the past few months.

Perhaps this is more of an observation than a question that will have an answer, but I am curious if anyone has insight into why this might be.

Post your thoughts in the comments section. If you would like to submit a question for UrbanTurf Reader Asks, send an email to .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

See other articles related to: urbanturf reader asks

This article originally published at http://dc.urbanturf.com/articles/blog/urbanturf_reader_asks_why_is_so_much_fast_food_coming_to_dc/2386


  1. Emily said at 2:20 pm on Tuesday August 17, 2010:

    I have wondered, too. I would rather that DC get some better sit-down restaurants from other parts of the country, but I have no problem with Shake Shack coming to town!

  1. BBB said at 4:49 pm on Tuesday August 17, 2010:

    Good question. My answer would be that all these places recognize the opportunity that exists in DC, and the frenzy that erupts when news that a place like Shake Shack is coming to town. It also may be an indicator that DC has no good fast food.

  1. anon said at 10:38 am on Wednesday August 18, 2010:

    Or it could mean that despite its affluence and airs, DC really just wants the same meat, potatoes, bread and cheese that everyone else wants. Not so different than middle America.  There’s little social capital in eating in McD’s, but Rays, Goodstuff, or Shake Shack meet social acceptability.  The longer the lines the obviously better the quality of food.

    It’s a similar phenomenon to the huge number of mexican/salvadorian joints here that serve the exact same slop but gather steady crowds for stiff margaritas and bottomless saturated fat soaked chips and salsa.

    Or maybe it’s just because it’s profitable.  I dunno.

  1. Les said at 11:09 am on Wednesday August 18, 2010:

    Could you map the locations where these fast food joints plan to open? Maybe we can see some correlation. In Real Estate, it’s location, location, location. The same may be true in Fast Food Real Estate, too.

  1. Brian Larkin said at 11:11 am on Wednesday August 18, 2010:

    Much as e-mail and land-lines are passe to the younger generations, it may be that the days of leisurely 3-martini lunches at Duke Zeibert’s, too, are relics of a time now past, and are being replaced by the fast-paced grab-a-bit-on-the-run life/work style here.

  1. Mark Wellborn said at 11:17 am on Wednesday August 18, 2010:

    @ Les—

    Shake Shack will be located south of Dupont Circle at 1216 18th Street NW.

    IHOP will be in the DC USA shopping center in Columbia Heights.

    Bojangles will open in Union Station.

    Fatburger is rumored to be opening a location in Columbia, MD.

    Chick-Fil-A has not decided on a location as of yet.

    Mark Wellborn

  1. nearby said at 11:39 am on Wednesday August 18, 2010:

    The rumors about fatburger near howard (at the NE corner of the intersection of florida and 7th/georgia) are pretty old.  They pulled out and the building now has two new tennants (a pharmacy and a 7/11).

  1. Andi said at 11:39 am on Wednesday August 18, 2010:

    Sit down places are great for dinner once a week or on the weekned, but many of us eat lunch out every day. Who has time for an hour and a half sit down lunch? Especially in DC. DC needs quick, inexpensive options. The “fast food” places that have hit the mark are places like Taylor Deli and SweetGreen. Washingtonians want good quality food with healthy choices fast. This is where the real demand is and ultimately the biggest payoff.

  1. anon said at 11:46 am on Wednesday August 18, 2010:


    There are some good quality places, and I’d put Shake Shack and Taylor in that category. But there are very few healthy options in this category.  Sweetgreen and Chop’t are the exception and not the rule.

  1. Lynda said at 12:12 pm on Wednesday August 18, 2010:

    Maybe all the trips Obama & Biden take to the local burger places as well as Ben’s Chilli Bowl is a reason. The First Family enjoys Fast Food.

  1. Citi said at 2:38 pm on Wednesday August 18, 2010:

    ...could be neighborhood revitalization, and more families with children are choosing to live in DC, rather than the suburbs.  I prefer the great sit down restaurants over fast food any day, but I must admit, occasionally I’ll place a Chipotle order online and then pick it up on my walk home through Chinatown - really convenient.

  1. DCobserver said at 3:04 pm on Wednesday August 18, 2010:

    “There’s little social capital in eating in McD’s, but Rays, Goodstuff, or Shake Shack meet social acceptability.”

    Comparing McD’s food to those other places would seem to indicate you are clueless about burgers. If Mcdonald’s was serving a Goodstuff burger for $3.99 people would be lined up out the door.

  1. anon said at 4:17 pm on Wednesday August 18, 2010:


    Meat, potatoes, bread, cheese . . . am I missing something here?  Maybe they have magical properties that lure people to line up around the block just for the privledge of consuming a Shake Shack hamburger?  Who are these people anyway, freakin’ Wimpy?

    I’ll concede the higher quality and better sourcing of Rays or GS over McD or Five Guys, but from a food composition and nutritional basis there’s little difference.  I generally avoid them all equally.  To each their own.

  1. anon said at 4:20 pm on Wednesday August 18, 2010:



    Totally true.  Despite my pro-Obama proclivities, I find the FF message on nutrition and chid obesity to ring a little hollow when Michelle gushes over her bff—french fries, and Barack prefers photo ops with heads of state over burgers and fries. We get it - you’re not all about the arugula, but does he really need to have a Bush-like aversion to an innocent and tasty vegetable like beets.

  1. Sneech said at 11:27 am on Monday August 23, 2010:

    Are we talking ‘franchise/corporate food’?  Ihop and Bojangle’s are not fast food.  They are part of huge multi-million dollar corporate chains.
    ‘Corporate’ food is the American way for many—like it or not.  It’s everywhere else so why not in the Nation’s Capitol?  Many of these establishments are already in the surrounding burbs.  We all have the choice to support or avoid these businesses.  I eat at some and avoid many.  I like having choices!

Join the discussion

UrbanTurf now requires registration in order to post comments. Register here, or login below if you are already registered.

Click here if you forgot your password.

DC Real Estate Guides

Short guides to navigating the DC-area real estate market

We've collected all our helpful guides for buying, selling and renting in and around Washington, DC in one place. Visit guides.urbanturf.com or start browsing below!

Northern Virginia

Profiles of 14 neighborhoods across Northern Virginia

Looking to Give People A Reason to Stay Past 6pm
Happily Straddling the Line Between City and Suburb
Columbia Pike
Arlington’s Neglected Stepchild is Getting a Makeover
Crystal City
Turning Lemons into Lemonade
Lyon Village
Developing An Air of Exclusivity?
Hitting Its Growth Spurt
An Urban Village Hitting Its Stride
Del Ray
Virginia’s Small Town Near the Big City
Eisenhower Avenue
The Vibrancy Might Take a Few Years
The Quiet Neighborhood By the Beltway
Old Town
Mayberry By The Potomac
132 Commerical-Free Acres
Downtown Falls Church
Staying the Same in the Midst of Change
Tysons Corner
Radical Change Could Be On The Way

See more Northern Virginia »


Profiles of 14 neighborhoods in suburban Maryland

Small-Town Living in the State Capital
Bedroom Community Gets Buzzing Cache
Cabin John
In With The New While Maintaining the Old
Chevy Chase
Affluence, Green Lawns and Pricey Homes
Downtown Silver Spring
Experiencing a Resurgence After a Bumpy History
A Suburb on Steroids
Rockville Town Square
Despite the Dynamism, Still Somewhat Generic
Takoma Park
More Than a Little Bit Quirky
A Foodie Magnet on the Verge of Change
Capitol Heights
Kudzu, Front Porches and Crime
Glass Half Full or Half Empty?
Mount Rainier
Artists, Affordable Homes and A Silo Full of Corn
National Harbor
A Development Rises Next to the Potomac
Riverdale Park
A Town Looking For Its Identity

See more Maryland »

Northwest DC

30+ neighborhood profiles for the city's biggest quadrant

16th Street Heights
DC's Sleeper Neighborhood
Where (Almost) Everyone Knows Your Name
AU Park
One of DC’s Last Frontiers Before the Suburbs
DC’s Northern Neighborhood on the Cusp
DC’s 535 House Neighborhood
Cathedral Heights
Do You Know Where That Is?
Chevy Chase DC
Not to Be Confused With the Other Chevy Chase
Cleveland Park
Coming Back After A Rough Year
Columbia Heights
DC’s Most Diverse Neighborhood, But For How Long?
An Island of Serenity East of the Park
Dupont Circle
The Best of DC (For a Price)
Foggy Bottom & West End
Where the Institutional Meets the International
Forest Hills
Ambassadors and Adventurous Architecture
Fort Totten
Five Years Could Make a Big Difference
Foxhall Village
350 Homes Just West of Georgetown
Friendship Heights
A Shopping Mecca With a Few Places to Live
History, Hoyas and H&M
Glover Park
One of DC’s Preppier and More Family-Friendly Neighborhoods
A Posh View From Embassy Row
LeDroit Park
A Quiet Enclave in the Middle of the City
Logan Circle
Trendy Now, But Not By Accident
Mount Pleasant
Sought-After Homes Surround Main Street in Transition
Mount Vernon Triangle
From Seedy to Sought-After
The Long, Skinny Neighborhood at the City’s Northwest Edge
Park View
It’s Not Petworth
Penn Quarter/Chinatown
DC’s Go-Go-Go Neighborhood
Getting a Vibrancy of Its Own
The Duke’s Former Stomping Ground
Shepherd Park
DC’s Garden of Diversity
Spring Valley
A Suburb With a DC Zip Code
Not To Be Confused With Takoma Park
Not Quite Like Its Neighbors
U Street Corridor
The Difference a Decade Makes
Woodley Park
Deceptively Residential
Adams Morgan
No Longer DC’s Hippest Neighborhood, But Still Loved by Residents

See more Northwest DC »

Southwest DC

The little quadrant that could

Southwest Waterfront
A Neighborhood Where A Change Is Gonna Come

See more Southwest DC »

Northeast DC

Profiles of 10 neighborhoods in NE

New Development Could Shake Up Pastoral Peace
A Little Bit of Country Just Inside the District’s Borders
Not to Be Confused With Bloomingdale
H Street
A Place To Party, and To Settle Down
The Northeast Neighborhood That Few Know About
Michigan Park
A Newsletter-On-Your-Doorstep Community
Evolving from a Brand to a Neighborhood
Ripe for Investment Right About Now
The Difference 5 Years Makes
Big Houses, A Dusty Commercial Strip and Potential

See more Northeast DC »

Southeast DC

6 neighborhoods from Capitol Hill to East of the River

Capitol Riverfront
Still Growing
Hill East
Capitol Hill’s Lesser Known Neighbor
Congress Heights
Gradually Rising
Notable for Its Neighborliness
Historic Anacostia
Future Promise Breeds Cautious Optimism
Eastern Market
A More European Way of Living

See more Southeast DC »

Upcoming Seminars ▾