Like it or not, fast food dining is now an indelible part of American life. More than one-fourth of all Americans eat fast food every single day and 8 out of 10 eat it at least once a month. That means we’re all spending an inordinate amount of time sitting on plastic chairs in fast food dining rooms, standing in line at registers, disposing of our own trash, and navigating our vehicles through ever-changing drive-thrus.

Some things about the fast food experience can’t really be changed, but the things that can be changed, are often for the best. It's always a good idea to let go of the past and move forward. If they can find a way to do it faster, cheaper, and better, the fast food industry is never hesitant to do it. These are the ten best modern fast food innovations, in no particular order...

You can read our list of the ten worst modern fast food innovations, but these are the ten best modern fast food innovations...

card swiper
1. Credit Card Swipers
The whole point of fast food is to get the food as quickly as possible. If we all had hours of our lives to spare, we would obviously go to better restaurants with sitdown service. Since we don’t, we want to get in and out as quickly as possible. Unfortunately, for a long time, that routinely took forever thanks to long counter wait times directly related to other customers paying as slowly as possible, either with cash or a credit card machine that ordinarily forced signatures and a ninety second delay at best. That’s not so bad with one person in front of you, but with five or size, it would make drive-thru lines and counter service that much more frustrating.

Luckily, most fast food places now employ credit card swipers that allow customers to accomplish the entire process in no more than ten seconds. Sure, there’s an asshole now and again that chooses to pay in cash or ask about twenty questions. Those problems can never be completely avoided, but on the whole, paying is now exponentially faster, and that benefits all of us.

digital soda machine
2. Digital Drinking
Short of offering Coke and Pepsi products in one space, there’s nothing beverage-related more satisfying than being able to order whatever the hell you want to drink. Thanks to the digital soda machine, those days are here. No longer do we have to suck it up and get Coke because it’s the only good option available. If Coke makes it, it’s now on the menu, typically in low calorie and zero calorie forms. It’s basically the equivalent of online shopping. You can do combinations. You can do weirdo flavors. You can do whatever the hell you want.

Obviously, for the first year or so while idiots get used to it, the new machines are going to create some hold-ups in line. That’s annoying, of course, but the Internet was still a damn good invention, even when it took my dial-up five minutes to initially connect and ninety-seconds to load a single webpage. Life is about forward progress. There are always bumps in the road, but we should all welcome those bumps if it means we’re actively watching our lives get easier in real time. Now, when you have a second, please move out of the way. I think I feel like an orange Fanta.

Disagree? Hate Digital Soda Machines? Then you'll love this: Why Digital Soda Machines Are The Worst

taco bell drive-thru
3. 24-hour Drive-Thru
I typically keep conventional hours. I wake up around 7:00 in the morning, and I go to sleep around midnight. I eat my meals within the generally accepted windows we’ve decided on as a society, and I don’t really have any interest in changing. Every once in a while, however, if I’m driving home from a trip or can’t sleep or randomly hit up the town, there are few things that excite me more than having the random option to grab some fast food during an utterly bizarre hour. 3:17 AM? That sounds like I’ve had a few drinks and want a chicken quesadilla from Taco Bell. 4:52 AM? That sounds iike I’ve got an early tee time and need a bacon, egg and cheese biscuit before I shoot a damn find round of golf.

The 24 hour drive thru window isn’t something I need every day, or even semi-regularly, but during those rare times in which I do need it, it’s a wonderful comfort to know it’s there and ready to serve me.

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