Top 10 Facts about Fast Food and Culture
Written by: Matt Sherman
October 23, 2008
Filed Under Food
Oh, the mixed joys of fast food and culture! Now, those are two guilty pleasures for most people. Fast food culture is sometimes inane, sometimes clever.
I used to work in the retail food industry. May I point out some pitfalls and possibilities for all you fast food junkies (oops, I mean “consumers”) out there?
#10 Weight Gain: Fast Food is deadly
Not if you work in a fast food restaurant! You will spend 8- to 12-hour shifts on your feet serving hundreds of ravenous, fast-moving customers. Employees typically earn only one or two meal breaks per shift. Managers grab a mere snack on their feet at times.
When I worked fast food, I lost weight, eating small meals like an athlete in training.
The truth is you can eat sensible fast food. Check menu and portions—you can go smart as with Taco Bell’s food, getting vegetarian items inside your meal but modest portions of beef or poultry.
#9 Culture Shock: Fast food doesn’t care for culture
Instead, McDonald’s and other chains adapt in their markets to suit local culture internationally. Hamburger joints overseas use only the best beef and freshest vegetables—their European customers wouldn’t tolerate less—though better ingredients drive price and menu upward. I love shrimp salad or fresh pasta with my burger in France or Italy.
In Israel, McDonald’s proffers falafel to win points. It’s in other countries where McDonald’s fast food and culture has promoted anti-Semitic spokesmen and drawn criticism.
#8 Super Size Me: Americans know what fast food to eat
We can’t often justify fast food splurges. I once managed a shift where a man ordered $42 worth of fast food before choosing Diet Pepsi for a drink as he “didn’t need the calories”. Out of sight, the shift workers laughed so hard I thought I’d call an ambulance.
In restaurants food costs is of concern so expect less care taken then at home and choose wisely.
#7 Good Times, Bad Tastes: There isn’t any good fast food
On the contrary, I know fast food chains serving only real sour cream, real beef, fresh ingredients and spices, and controlling portions with customers eating truly healthful and enjoyable meals. Ask for a nutrition guide then let your fingers do the eating.
#6 Slow Food Is Safest: Germs and food
85 percent of food-borne illnesses are transmitted at home, not restaurants! Most restaurants follow codes ensuring frequent washing and sterilization of utensils, and general cleanliness throughout the restaurant, kitchen and food packaging.
There is 24-hour or longer incubation period for food-borne illness. Most sick people assume last night’s local restaurant was to blame, even when it wasn’t.
#5 Empty Culture: “Losers” work fast food
It was my privilege to work with truly gifted folks in fast food. Collegiates and older folks returning to school late in life, young people working hard apart from teen parties with drinking and drugs, savvy managers who know more about sales and hospitality than most people I know…
…Some fine civic leaders started in fast food. Many went on to manage restaurants or even whole chains of food franchises.
#4 Wants: People choose fast food for quantity and low price
Studies confirm that “fast foodies” are in restaurants for the same reason as others, with service and cleanliness the top priorities. I am thinking “dollars and food” when I go fast, but apparently, two-thirds of consumers are thinking “ambiance” instead. Go figure.
#3 Iron Chefs: Gourmet diners dine on gourmet fast food
A recent survey of top chefs proved a stunner. The overwhelming choice for top chefs on breaks from a hot stove? The Big Mac. Yup, McDonald’s basic burgers on sugary buns with onions and not other items?
Not In-N-Out Cheeseburgers (I’m drooling into my keyboard right now)? Not tacos from Taco Bell, Del Taco or Jack In The Box? Not something-or-other with jalapenos and Monterey Jack from Wendy’s? Not tempting selections from Zagat-rated Chick-fil-A, Dairy Queen or Carl’s Jr.?
I’m rethinking whether those “top chefs” are indeed top chefs at all.
#2 Nice and Easy: Making fast food is no big deal
It can be easy and pleasant work, until that day when you are scheduled for 8 workers on shift and 3 show up. All the customers will still visit!
A typical fast food restaurant requires two hours only to start all cash and operating equipment, open the kitchen and fry, heat and chop over 40 different food items to plan for nearly 50 menu items plus substitutions.
You also have to be skilled to get a dozen items out a drive-thru window in 45 seconds or less at three in the morning.
#1 America Merges: Fast food is taking over the culture fast
Maybe. Perhaps Starbucks, Wal-Mart and McDonald’s will finally merge together, dominating the landscape with countless food and item stores called “Mc Star-Mart’s” or “Wal-Bucks Donald’s”.
I pray fervently at times for America.