I was a little intrigued the other day when I spotted an interesting article about McDonald's on the Wall Street Journal website. See, I don't think about McDonald's much. I almost never eat there, and there isn't one anywhere near my house. I can't even remember the last time I saw an ad for McDonald's on TV, although I am sure there are loads of them, and I have just been fortunate enough to be in the bathroom when they are on.
So I started looking for McDonald's ads on the internet, like the really cool one above. And I thought to myself, "Gee I hate McDonald's, but they have an amazing PR, advertising and marketing team." After that, I started thinking about McDonald's, a lot.
The WSJ article talks about how successful McDonald's has performed as a company during the recession (the article is American). It makes perfect sense. If we are all pinching our pennies, those of us who were unlikely to eat that much fast food have returned to it in droves. Sometimes it's just nice to have a meal out, even if that meal tastes like cardboard and makes you feel sick afterward. Who cares when you can have dinner for under $7 right?
McDonald's have proven themselves to be clever market players in the past. They monitor data fastidiously, and in short create the exact environment their customers desire. Backlash about the fat content? Easy, throw in some Heart Foundation approved menu choices. Stores in affluent areas suffering? Easy, close them down and open more stores in lower socio-economic areas.
McDonald's may annoy the crap out of most of us, but figures show they are doing something right. While you won't find me working in an organic veggie shop wearing a t-shirt with McShit across the front, I'm not waving a flag of support for the company either.
With that in mind, I went to McDonald's. And ate there. By choice. And it wasn't all bad.
The part that frightened me the most: the customers. My venue of choice was in a predominantly low-income area, so I suppose I found what I predicted. It is really hard to watch really overweight kids eat fast food. This is probably why the kids you see eating happy meals on the telly are perfectly groomed and slender. That said, there are loads of fat kids in Sandy Bay as well.
There was something about being in a McDonald's (and being sober enough to remember it) that brought up some fun memories of being a kid. I didn't come from a take-away kind of family. A meal out at Maccas meant someone had received a really good report card from school. I remember when a Happy Meal didn’t come with a free toy. And an invitation to a birthday party at McDonald's was worth its weight in gold.
Now I have been back, I will concede that McDonald's is at least 70 percent evil. And I did feel really ill after my McNuggets, because I've read Fast Food Nation, I know what is in them. But I kinda had a fun time. For a little under an hour, I felt just a little bit like a kid again. And that can't be all bad.