Tag Archives: Fast Food Restaurants

The definition of Chutzpah…

…or stupidity, I can’t decide which.

Taco Bell set up shop in Mexico

The fast-food chain, which in 2006 achieved the No. 6 ranking among the top 100 U.S. chain restaurants by promoting its menu to Americans as authentic Mexico, is doing an about-face south of the border.

In its first store in Monterrey, which opened last month, Taco Bell is advertising itself as quintessentially “American,” with a menu that offers french fries and soft-serve ice cream.

And the Americanized taco – the crunchy, meat-filled corn shell sold in San Diego and other U.S. cities as a Taco Bell taco – has been renamed a “tacostada” in Mexico. It’s a made-up word that is a play on tostada, which for Mexicans is a hard, fried disk of cornmeal always served flat, with toppings.

Oh there is so much irony to enjoy in this article, but the “tacostada” is the clear winner.

And who knew that they marketed themselves here in the U.S. as authentic? With Mexican immigration reaching areas as far away as Maine and Seattle, does anyone really believe that Taco Bell is authentic? Or is Yum brands that delusional?


New York City proposing limiting Fast Food Restaurants

From the AP story –

Councilman Joel Rivera, health committee chairman, said at a hearing Wednesday he was exploring the idea of using zoning laws to prevent fast food joints from taking over city streets.

As we start to focus more and more on obesity and similar issues, we’re bound to see more items like these, where the government (and some people) will want to legislate obesity away in some manner or another.

The problem with these solutions is that they generally want to seperate fast food restaurants from other eating establishments, even though many of these non-fast food restaurants have similar culpabilities as their fast food brethern. Yes, eating at fast food restaurants on a regular basis is bad. But is it any worse than having a bacon cheeseburger and fries at TGIFridays, or a Chimichanga at Don Pablo’s on a regular basis?

Councilman Rivera’s proposal is unlikely to go anywhere fast. As the article notes “Mitchell Moss, professor of urban policy and planning at New York University, said it’s unlikely any zoning resolution could dictate that level of detail. The zoning code for eating and drinking establishments does not distinguish types of food.”

Technorati Tags: Fast Food, Obesity, Food,


McDonald’s upswing

These are the kind of stories I love, essentially because they prove that I can be right from time to time. Who doesn’t like feeling validated from time to time?

At any rate, McDonald’s has been rebounding from the market decline that the company took a year or two ago. The reason?

It’s not the sudden prevalence of healthy options on their menu. In fact, it’s the opposite. From the New York Times article:

McDonald’s has attracted considerable attention in the last few years for introducing to its menu healthy food items like salads and fruit. Yet its turnaround has come not from greater sales of healthy foods but from selling more fast-food basics, like double cheeseburgers and fried chicken sandwiches, from the Dollar Menu.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again…Global Food industries cannot be all things to all people. McDonald’s cannot be viable option for those who eat healthy, because people who eat healthy rarely walk into fast food restaurants.

The article then goes on to mention the health concerns of fast food restaurants as well as how McDonald’s has targeted its marketing efforts on specific minorities.

The health concerns of fast food are undeniably valid, but if McDonald’s (and any fast food restaurant) would stop pretending to care about feeding healthy food to their customers, then they cease creating the untenable and nearly indefensible position of having to pretend they’re healthy while selling unhealthy foods. They make vast amounts of money selling hamburgers laden with cheese and potatoes deep fried in oil. No amount of pedometer giveaways and side salads is going to change that fact.

Instead, if they are open about their products and give the full nutritional information of their products, it puts a larger (if not nearly complete) responsibility on the customers for choosing to eat the double cheeseburgers and drinking the supersized soft drinks.

Or to put it another way, if a person has nearly 100% of the relevant information surrounding the product they buy, then they can hardly blame someone else if said product is bad for them.

However, if a company goes out of their way to provide dis-information, mis-information or hide information about the bad side of their products, they leave themselves liable for the actual information that they were trying to cover up.

The x factor here is how much does advertising affect people’s choice. That’s a topic I’ve tried to get my head around, but every time I feel I need to chase down advertising statistics, I end up smacking myself in the head repeatedly, in some sort of bizarre operant-conditioning preventative measure.

Technorati Tags: Fast Food, McDonald’s, Food


McDonalds and Quality

Thanks for those of you who e-mailed me the latest news in the comic opera that is McDonalds and their need to be loved by all.

Yes, putting nutritional information on their wrappers is a good thing.

Yes, McDonalds using organic coffee is an interesting choice, and hopefully indicative of other choices to come.

I’ve even noted the Golden Arches touting their quality, which is all well and good if you don’t realize that “quality” is defined by the company and not by the customers.

But none of this changes the spots on the McDonalds Leopard. They are still a fast food restaurant. All of their low selling yogurt parfaits, and their chemically treated apple slices do not change this fact.

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t hate the food at McDonalds. I don’t choose to eat it, but I also don’t raise my nose at those who do. Choices are everyone’s responsibility afterall.

What I do have a problem with is their denial of who they are. Burger King, Wendy’s and Jack in the Box don’t go out of their way to try to promote how healthy they are. Why? Well because they’re not. In fact, the most press that Burger King has gotten over the past year has come from new products that push the envelope in calories and fat.

My point is not a new one.McDonalds is a fast food restaurant. They should stop trying to pretend otherwise.


Happy Fast Food Jobs?

In the course of reviewing dozens of food stories a day, I sometimes come across one or two that simply make me scratch my head incredulously. For instance…

“Fast Food Jobs better than Advertised“

That collective THUNK you heard was 90% of everyone reading this article who ever worked at a fast food restaurant hitting their heads against their keyboards.

The article goes on to explain how in some cases there is advancement within the fast food corporate environment.

Nichols said he hires up to 110 employees at the two restaurants. Employees are paid more than minimum wage for full-time employment and pay is based on employees’ availability. Mid-level managers can take home $35,000 a year and top managers in Craig and Steamboat make in excess of $70,000 a year including benefits, Nichols said.

*blink…blink, blink*

Uhhh….okay.

Well, first and foremost, let’s set the record straight a bit. While it is true that managers can pull in between 30-35k on average, $70,000 a year is a bit rare, even for regional managers. Typically, regional managers pull in $54,000 a year. Not bad, but far short of what the article states.

I’m not about to say that the managers are well paid or not when it comes to fast food. I’m of the mind that once you pursue the management track in these restaurants, you understand what you’re into.

Having worked at both franchised and corporate stores back in my youth, I can tell you that there are two different cultures at work. While the corporate stores do allow for advancement, franchises can range from professional to out and out scary. But again, I’ll give those who pursue management the benefit of the doubt and presume they know what they are getting into.

It’s the wages of the front line workers where fast food restaurants flat out fail. Eric Schlosser wrote in his book Fast Food Nation the following:

While a handful of workers manage to rise up the corporate ladder, the vast majority lack full-time employment, receive no benefits, learn few skills, exercise little control over their workplace, quit after a few months, and float from job to job. The restaurant industry is now America’s largest private employer, and it pays some of the lowest wages. During the economic boom of the 1990s, when many American workers enjoyed their first pay raises in a generation, the real value of wages in the restaurant industry continued to fall. The roughly 3.5 million fast food workers are by far the largest group of minimum wage earners in the United States. The only Americans who consistently earn a lower hourly wage are migrant farm workers.

Workers who are promised benefits when they work 40 hours a week regularly often head home 1-2 hours short of their goal. Their pay is often minimum wage or perhaps 10-20% higher. Raises come in nickels and dimes rather than dollars per hour.

Who do you think make or enforce these decisions? That’s right, the managers who are lovingly lauded in the above article.

Again, I’m not one to say where one should or should not work. People have to eat after all. But to paint the Fast Food industry as a wonderful work opportunity is embellishment bordering on outright lying.


Why American Cuisine is Looked Down Upon – Pt. 1


Let me submit prosecution evidence Labeled A: The Burger King 730-calorie breakfast product that slaps two omelet eggs, a sausage patty, three strips of bacon and two slices of cheese into a bun.

So much for the “We promise to develop healthy alternatives” plan, eh?

For the record, 47g of fat is equivalent to any one of the following:

  • - 1/2 stick of butter
  • - 1 Denny’s Grand Slam Breakfast
  • - 2 McDonalds Sausage McMuffin with Eggs
  • - 3 Au Bon Pain Chocolate Croissants
  • - 4 Krispey Kreme Glazed Donuts
  • - 5 Tablespoons of Mayo
  • - 9 Hostess Twinkies
  • - 24 cups of plain oatmeal

(Thanks Newsday!)


McLibel

1986 was a fun year. Fox Network starts in America. “A.M. Chicago” changes its name to the “Oprah Winfrey Show” and goes national on September 8th. In England, London Greenpeace (Not to be confused with the Greenpeace International), distributed a pamphlet entitled “What’s wrong with McDonald’s: Everything they don’t want you to know“.

The pamphlet was less than complimentary to McDonald’s, stating that as a corporation, the fast food chain was partly responsible for exploiting children, destroying the rain forest and genrally just being greedy bastards.

McDonald’s, not liking the bad press that this pamphlet gave the company, decided to strongarm the folks associated with the pamphlet by serving libel writs on several volunteers in the group. McDonald’s made the folowing threat: retract the allegations made in the pamphlet and apologize, or go to court. Helen Steel and Dave Morris essentially told them “We’ll see you in court”.

The tale of the libel trial is an amazing one, and earned McDonald’s a tremendous black eye. They made the mistake of claiming that all of the allegations made in the pamphlet were false. While some of the allegations were dubious, many, especially those surrounding nutrition, labor practices and child exploitation were not.

The end result? A court victory for McDonalds in June of 1997. But this was due strictly because of the interpretation of U.K. Libel laws, which essentially say that even if one of a dozen allegations made are libelous, then the entire case is deemed libelous. But in the briefing Justice Roger Bell found that the defendants had proven many of the points made in the initial pamphlet. According to Bell, McDonald’s did endanger the health of their workers and customers by “misleading advertising”, that they “exploit children”, that they are “culpably responsible” in the infliction of unnecessary cruelty on animals, and that they are “antipathetic” to unionization and pay their workers low wages. The amount McDonald’s won? £60,000…Considering they spent £10,000,000 in legal fees and research of the case, the victory was a bitter and costly one.

On appeal, it was further noted that McDonald’s mistreated their workers, and that McDonald’s food was a cause of heart disease. The award was reduced to £40,000.

Why bring up all this history now? Because yesterday, the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) ruled that the original case had breached article 6 (right to a fair trial) and Article 10 (right to freedom of expression) of the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms and ordered that the UK government should pay Steel and Morris £57,000 in compensation. You see, Steel and Morris were not provided with legal aid to assist them in their defense against the libel charges brought by McDonald’s. They defended themselves with their own money and the money that was raised in their name by people around the world.

In making their decision, the ECHR criticized the way in which UK laws had failed to protect the public’s right to criticize corporations whose business practices affect people’s lives and the environment and criticized the biased nature of the trial due to the defendants’ lack of legal aid, the complex and oppressive nature of the UK libel laws, and the imbalance in resources between the parties to the case.

The entire story of the proceedings is almost unbelievable. Corporate spies inflitrated London Greenpeace, following people home, taking letters sent to the group, getting fully involved in the Greenpeace activities – including handing out anti-McDonald’s pamplets. McDonald’s even wanted to settle with Steel and Morris. But because Steel and Morris wanted it stipulated that McDonald’s should not be able to sue anyone for making similar criticisms and for them to apologize to those they’ve sued in the past, the trial plodded along. I urge you to read the most excellent site McSpotlight for the full nefarious story.

Congratulations to both Helen Steel and Dave Morris, who didn’t even write the pamphlet, they merely handed them out.