Vlog: Fast food fades: Here’s

Vlog: Fast food fades
: Here’s a vlog on the decline of fast food from a guy who was raised on the stuff; at last 6′ of my 6’4″ was built on fat, sugar, starch (and protein) from McDonald’s.

You can see the blog here: www.screenblast.com/buzzmachine; click on the Big Mac.

The script (click on “more” for the rest):

I am a child of many parents: a child of the sixties… of TV… of the Cold War… of Sputnik… of rock ‘n’ roll… and also of fast food.

Ronald McDonald was a father figure to me. I was raised on burgers ‘n’ fries.

But now I fear that fast food — the true American cuisine — is in decline.

Consider:

> McDonald’s just posted its first loss in 47 years and its CEO is slinking away.

> Meanwhile, Burger King is being sold for a mere $1.5 billion dollars. That’s less than 1 buck for each of the 2.4 billion burgers BK sells annually.

Starbucks is worth five times more — and it doesn’t feed people, it only caffeinates them.

> McDonald’s is being sued for making Americans fat, as if we are a people force-fed like French geese.

> At the same time, the two burger behemoths are fighting it out with dollar-menus that discount their core products into unprofitability.

> Finally, desperately, McDonald’s now plans to monkey with the formula for its basic burger.

(No, they’re not going to introduce meat.) They’re going to spice up the taste and buff up the bun.

> You have to worry about a company that both discounts and changes it core product.

You also have to worry about a company that can’t decide what its core products are. McDonald’s spent a fortune to market a new flatbread chicken sandwich — only to pull it off the market (just as I was getting addicted to it)… and now they’re spending another fortune to REintroduce it.

I smell trouble.

I’m not ashamed to admit that I love American fast food.

Sure, be snotty about it: Be French.

But the truth is that even the French crave consistency as we do: Walk into any French boit and order a croque monsieur and it will be like every one other croque monsieur; it is the Gaellic Big Mac.

For the price, speed, and quality, nothing beats American fast food. I just wasted an hour in Friendly’s — thanks to my kids — only to have a gawdawful, overpriced, lukewarm, chewy/soggy chicken sandwich — and I had to leave a tip for the privilege.

I’ll take Mickey D’s or BK any day.

Fast food is a great invention of American economic ingenuity.

But it is failing.

And I’m not sure why.

It could be that these companies simply jumped the culinary shark, changing their products too often, or not paying attention to Ray Kroc’s god: quality control.

Or it could be that something fundamental is changing in America and the world: our taste is changing — or even more basic, our loyalty to brands is changing.

Look at the brands having trouble these days:

> McDonald’s… Burger King… Coke… Campbell’s Soup… even The Gap…

What ties these brands together?

My generation of Baby Boomers grew up with them.

Now we’re growing old … and so are these brands.

So the problem may not be that the burger culture is fading… It may be that the Boomer culture is fading.

Somebody, please pass me the Tums.

  • http://kenlayne.com Ken Layne

    I don’t believe Burger Culture is fading. Not in this country, at least. What’s happening is that we have been given too many tasty foods, and now we demand better burgers.
    With cheap & delicious cuisines from around the world in our reach — especially in big towns like NYC, LA, Chicago & SF, but increasingly in out-of-the-way towns where immigrants settle — there’s just no reason to eat a crappy hamburger. If you want a good burger, you’ll go to a regional chain known for quality. In LA (indeed, in most of California and parts of Arizona and Nevada), you go to In-n-Out. It is absolutely delicious. (It’s been around since 1948, and you’ll find every location packed with kids & young adults. And the chain has long accomodated both veggie-eaters — order the “grilled cheese” and high-protein dieters/surfers/weightlifters — order the “protein burger” wrapped in lettuce leaves instead of a bun.)
    And for people who think about these things when buying a fast-food meal (like me), In-n-Out is known for treating its employees very well: benefits, good pay, help with tuition, etc. Also, it’s not a franchise. You lose quality when you over-franchise. When I go to a Ruth’s Chris Steak House, I know I’m going to get a fine slab of beef perfectly prepared. Ruth herself oversaw the chain from its New Orleans beginning, and you can tell.
    When brands are carelessly treated (Eddie Bauer, for example), they go to hell. When brands are lovingly cared for by people who actually believe in the product (Land’s End, LL Bean), they mean something to the customer. McDonalds quit caring about food.
    Other brilliant points will go unwritten, as I’ve got to get in the shower and go to a party. Happy New Year!

  • kajagoogle

    Jeff — I think you are on to something here, as usual, and you will likely have more fun with it as you go. I would like to know, however, why you chose to categorize the vlog segment about McDonald’s under “Comedy.” Was that intentional or an oversight? Closest word to “commentary” available from the Screenblaster pop-up menu? Just curious.