|No seriously guys, put them away.|
McDonalds is an interesting phenomenon. It’s one of the largest companies in the world, spanning nations and cultures like nobody’s business, ranking right up there with companies like Shell and Walmart for having the most fingers in the most pies. The McDonalds model is the envy of smaller companies, and the effect of McDonalds on the world is something that sociologists love to write and talk about (even going so far as to coin the word “McDonaldization”).
Love it or hate it, one of the things that makes McDonalds great is its ability to adapt. McDonalds doesn’t sell Big Macs and fries worldwide. In Indonesia you get rice with your meal, while in the Middle East you could get falafel or something equivalent to a gyro, and in India there’s an all-vegetarian McDonalds. Also, you should look up the McDonalds Bubur Ayum. It’s great. Point is, McDonalds adapts to its customers, and isn’t afraid to try radical things.
Which brings me to my point: McDonalds is adapting to the new needs of the American consumer. A few days ago I read an article in the Washington Post about how McDonalds is going to start posting the calorie count for its menu items nationwide, so now you’ll finally be able to see the unforeseen consequences of 20 McNuggets for $5. McDonalds is doing this voluntarily, mind you, and not due to a federal mandate.
But why? Well, because it looks good for them to do it, and will probably get the health-food mafia off their back for a few weeks. They’re doing it for the same reason that they opened up the confusing juxtaposition that is “McCafe”. Think of how much we as Americans love to go to Starbucks and string as many coffee/drink related words together and then pay for the Harry Potter-esque concoction that comes out. How could they not get in on that action? That’s the same reason they’ve started providing free Wi-Fi at most locations. It’s also why most McDonalds restaurants have somehow undergone the transformation from a whitewashed and tiled building that stinks of disinfectant, cooking oil and dirty children to a hip café with mood lighting and flat screens tuned in to CNN. I can’t even find a not-hip McDonalds where I live anymore, and believe me, I’ve tried.
So there you have it. While this is obviously just an opinion article written by an undergraduate sociology student, it does have some connections to actual sociological theory. In particular, the concept of "McDonaldization" is a big thing right now, explored most extensively by George Ritzer. Here's a link to the Wikipedia page for McDonaldization, and another link to a lecture outline on the subject from the University of Missouri at St. Louis. If you're that interested.
Basically, McDonalds is trying to follow the Starbucks model. I doubt it’ll work anytime soon, as it was only a few short years ago that they were suffering the backlash from Super Size Me and the countless spin-offs and angry Youtube videos it spawned. And they have yet to get into the world of slacktivism by offering free-range chicken McNuggets and coffee never touched by underpaid workers’ hands. But the point is, McDonalds sees that while we may buy pseudo-food to shove in our faces, we want to do it in style. We want to feel like we’re eating that sandwich in a place with class, rather than a droll establishment made of tile and plastic seats.
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