Why I Love McDonald's

McDonald's is a favorite target of derision from anti-capitalist elements in our society.  However, these rabid McDonald's haters never really explain exactly what's so bad about an efficient restaurant chain.

There was a time when I would have regarded a trip to McDonald's as a guilty pleasure, something to be hidden from friends and neighbors.  I would quickly destroy any evidence, terrified that someone might discover my secret, that I might be outed for the sin of having consumed a sausage, egg, and cheese biscuit. 

Thankfully, these days I am free from the shackles of political correctness, and the guilt that its practitioners sought to impose on me.

I have asked myself, on occasion, “What it is about a trip to McDonald's that I find so enjoyable?”  It would seem irrational to delight in a visit to a fast food restaurant.  Certainly a more delicious and nutritious meal can be had.  I have no fascination with clowns or heavily-used modular playground equipment.  Why then do I find a trip to McDonald's so fulfilling?

The answer came to me the other day after I departed the drive-through of one of the three McDonald's locations that has been conveniently placed between my home and my office, for what must have been at least the hundredth time.  I had given my order with my normal military precision, “Number 5, with a small black coffee please.”  The electronic screen registered my order a moment later and I was ordered to proceed.  

I arrived at the cashier’s window twenty seconds later, presented my debit card, and was asked to pull forward to a second window less than a minute later.  As I pulled up to the window, the employee who was tasked with filling orders thrust the bag out the window with her left hand, poised to thrust the coffee out with her right.  I grabbed the bag with a curt “Thank You”, was handed the coffee, and departed in the space of ten seconds.  I had managed to procure a fully-cooked breakfast without leaving my car in less than two minutes.

The satisfaction I felt afterwords was that of having completed a task in the most efficient way yet devised by mankind.  The people that had taken my order and filled it had done so with machine-like precision.  My burritos and hash browns would taste the same as they had a dozen times before, from a dozen different locations, in a dozen different states across the country.  The coffee tasted the same as it always had, and was heated to precisely the same temperature as it always was.  

No one had felt the need to ask me in their most utterly disinterested voice how my day was going, or if there was anything else I needed.   They had done exactly what I had wanted them to do, without me having to explain why it was that I wanted them to do it or how it was to be done.

As I left the McDonald's, I felt a kinship with others who were also speeding their way through the drive-through at 6 AM, hurrying to begin their daily work.  I thought about those who were crowding into the tiny dining room inside, with nowhere in particular that they needed to be.  They were utterly defeating the purpose of this venerable institution, attempting in vain to make it inefficient.  

It struck me that I thought them unworthy and unappreciative of the efficiency that they had come to expect.  They had gone to McDonald's because the food was cheap, and deliciously calorie-filled.

It seemed absurd that those so devoid of motive power would be consuming food designed specifically for the most active in our society.  “Their money, their choice,” I thought as I unwrapped my burrito and began reading my morning email.   

Justin W. Brown is a geologist who provides geological, geotechnical, and engineering solutions for the oil and gas transportation industry. He is also an aspiring freelance writer, with a keen interest in history, philosophy, and science.

15 comments from readers  

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Uhh, I don't think eating at the dining room in McDonalds is not 'honoring' the institution (or its capitalism). The food *is* cheap, and even in the dining room it's still quick. Saying that someone is unappreciative and unworthy of the institution simply because they don't have to rush somewhere else and take full advantage of its efficiency rubs me the wrong way, sorry.
I think you miss the reason people complain about fast food like Micky D's. Sure it is efficient. And not very expensive. But it is not healthy. And the fact they are so ubiquitous makes it more difficult to develop alternatives. Wouldn't it be better to have the option of truly low fat, high nutrition fast food? It could be just as efficient, but the reality is it would face a tough market with all the sugar and fat ladened offerings from the current dominators of this market.

It's a fair question to ask "what would that more healthy food be" and I don't have an answer. But I would hope our creative society could come up with more exciting alternatives than raw apples or celery for health-conscious fast food customers.
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"Anti-capitalist elements"? You've got to be kidding. Aren't I allowed to hate McDonalds because their crappy food makes me feel sick? Isn't that how the free market works?

One of the primary reasons that McDonalds can offer such low cost "food" is that one of their main ingredients, corn (used in every product they sell), is highly subsidized by the US government. Oh boy, that's good pure capitalism, isn't it?

And if McDonalds is so proud of the nutritional value of their food, why don't they make that information easily available to consumers so they can make informed decisions: "Wow, that single burger just gave me a full day's supply of saturated fat!"

Feel free to continue eating your crappy subsidized food from the McDonalds machine -- I'm going elsewhere.
Is it that difficult to fathom why some people don't like McDonand's? Sure it's an efficient organization, I don't think that's the issue people dispute.

What people don't like is that the food McDonalds serves is, in general, extraordinary unhealthy. It can also be argued that their food doesn't even taste that good, and it's just packed with enough fat and salt to mask the low quality ingredients used. But, that is more a matter of personal taste (and in my case I think most of their food tastes like wet cardboard).

In addition, we have a serious problem with obesity in America. While there is nothing wrong with the service that McDonand's provides depending on certain principles (people should be free to choose what it is that they want to eat). I do question the judgment of those millions who stuff themselves on food that is of dubious nutritional value, and high in things that are specifically bad for the human body when not eaten in moderation. As McDonald's makes it very easy for people to choose bad nutrition because it is so efficient (yet, once again, I believe people should be able to make their own choices, even bad ones) this is why I personally do not look upon them highly overall as an organization despite a stellar business acumen.
Jeff O
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I don't feel guilt when I go either. I sometimes get a little tired of my double-quarter meal. But I am aware there are a few new things all the time that I don't try. They serve salad and lean chicken for those who want it. Desserts for an unbeatable price. My wife and I are also impressed that we never get sick when we eat there. Something that is all too common in restaurants all up and down the price scale. That is no coincidence or accident and a record that would be tough for any restaurant in the world to match. It's a little sad that restaurant chains that appear to be more upscale. (I better not mention names. ) do not have the same reputation in my families mind.
I miss the days when I would drive to work at 6am and pull up to the McDonalds for that efficient breakfast. I would end up there after the other fast food choices were too crowded because they just don't have it down like McDonalds. I must agree, a perfect example of capitalism at its best!

With that said, I no longer eat fast food because it was killing me! My weight was out of control, high blood pressure and cholesterol are not with it! Now I find a way to make the time to eat more nutritious meals.

Oh wait, I still stop occasionally for their perfect, always satisfying black coffee. Definitively the best of ANY fast food restaurant!
I always laugh at the leftist snobs who complain, without any justification, about the bad food. They eat just as bad (fat, salt, calorie-wise) at the Fancy French restaurants they love. Likewise, their Chinese take-out, most of their pizzas, etc.

No, "progressives" hate McDonalds precisely because of its success and efficiency. And, precisely because the unwashed masses refuse to bow to their betters on matters of their own diet.
I don't understand the criticism of the indoor diners -- "those so devoid of motive power." There are several Good Reasons why people would dine inside a McDonald's, rather than order take-out: (1) they might be on a trip and wanted to get out of the car for awhile; (2) they're retired, and enjoy eating breakfast out, and maybe running into friends for a chat (e.g., I have an uncle who worked full-time for 35 years and served in WWII, and eats breakfast out every day and enjoys it!); (3) some people enjoy eating in a comfortable, air conditioned place and being around other people.
Brian, From Boulder,

Why does it make you feel sick? I am not being sarcastic, I really want to know! Sick in what way? Stomach ache, headache? What? It sounds like a recurring symptom when you eat there. How often? Why go back?

Corn subsidies! Did Mickey D's have something to do with that? You say, "It is in every product they sell?" Which ones! The 100% beef patties, the french fries, the Chicken Biscuit?

As far as the nutritional value: Do you know how to use the internet or go inside the restaurant? The brochures of nutritional value are in a box "free for the taking" to anyone that is willing to look or ask. The same thing with the web site. Easy access! Damned Us....We ARE making informed decisions!

It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out (with or without nutrition info) that this stuff is not good in for us in huge quantities or with regularity. I am smart enough that I don't need the nutrition charts and go there for snacks or a quick double cheeseburger when I'm in a hurry....No Fries, and add a Vitamin Water! Oxymoron, I know, but I love that sandwich!

I am so glad that they are there! On Sunday Mornings we don't have to mess up our entire kitchen to make pancakes and sausage or bacon....One of my favorites....though not nearly as good as home made!

Bottom Line, Don't Hold It Against McDonalds for delivering what the consumer wants! When the choice to not eat what Mc Donalds serves changes, So will the menu and not before!
There is a rather wide, easily identifiable line between corporate and capitalist. McDonald's, as Brian has already noted, falls on the wrong side. While one must nod respectfully to the assembly-line inspired engineering which ultimately resulted in the order-ready efficiency of McDonald's, there is very little else laudable about the establishment when considered as a whole. For instance, its artificially maintained prices which are cost controlled only because of heavy Government subsidising as opposed to the result of an informed business model or market strategy, a phenomenon which in turn lends itself to institutionalised practises of waste and abuse.

Which is not to mention anything of the distinctly lacking nutritional content, the inherently unhealthy ideal of vehicular dining or the bizarre repercussions 'restaurants' like McDonald's impact upon the various livestock industries which are induced to distinctly Faustian means of production in order to meet market demands.

If you have not heard any of the aforementioned objections before today, it is only because they are not conducive to congenial conversation sir. There are many, many good books on the subject, and more than one colourful documentary on the subject. I would start with something mild like Food Inc and progress from there. An industrialist wisely considers the effect of their labours in terms of time, quality, profit and resources and strives for a balance between all four facets. Unfortunately for McDonald's, consideration of half the variables involved is not good enough. As informed consumers, we should hold them to the standards they neglect, at wallet-point.

Rand approved of profit, in as much as it measured one's personal worth, but not as a means in and of itself. The easiest way to make money is to meet a current need; Utilities, crematoriums, real estate and communications are examples of industries without end. The hardest, where Rand herself recognised the nobility of the industrialist, lay in meeting the need not yet anticipated, exploring concepts of commerce not yet existent.
McDonald's is the epitome of the free market at its best -- they find out what people want, then supply it with absolute precision, while fending off the noisy naysayers who insist that a restaurant's role is to serve as nanny/nutritionist to its clientele.

Many years ago I worked for a company which maintained training systems for McDonald's franchisees. Every store (that's how they refer to them) had a pro-quality ($xxxx) video system and a library of training tapes to teach employees everything from how to build a Big Mac to recognizing and responding to various personality types. One which especially impressed me was a presentation for early-shift employees instructing them on precisely how to interact with customers "speeding their way through the drive-through at 6 AM, hurrying to begin their daily work," including visual cues to determine which dining room customers might react favorably to the offer of a morning paper, along with warnings to avoid excessive cheerfulness unless the customer ("guest") made the first move.

Your comment about the tyranny of guilt is right on the mark, and reflects much of what defines Ayn Rand and Objectivism -- those who wish to avoid McDonald's are absolutely free to do so, but even here in the Atlasphere some can't avoid trying to impose a burden of guilt on you for "Loving McDonald's." But guilt can't actually be imposed: it has to be accepted to be effective. Keep enjoying your Mickey-D and thanks for writing about why you do.
Fascinating... The author wrote a fine article about the efficiency of restaurants designed for people who have places to go and things to do, which ultimately illustrates something that Rand said: if time is money, then money is also time. In this case, having just a few dollars allows you to get a decent meal in 2 minutes without even leaving your car. So I'd say that the fast-food which many of you disapprove of (as do the Germans, tellingly enough) is a good example of how political freedom expands your daily options and actually buys you time.

And the author started that article by describing that he overcame the socially programmed admonition against buying yourself time in that manner.

The really fascinating part is that so many of you missed all that even though it was clearly described right there. Your responses were Pavlovian: "McDonald's is unhealthy!"

Are you serious? Do you actually know that, or are you just repeating it?

Don't you think it would be good if the entire world could eat that well? Or do you think that starving millions are better off WITHOUT McDonald's?

What made you bring up the 'unhealthy' allegation in the first place, since the article wasn't even about that?

I think the real issue here is social programming.
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There are 2 issues getting mixed up here:
1. The quality of McDonalds' food delivery service
2. The quality of McDonalds' food

The author of the article seems to argue that I have to love both or neither. I disagree: I admire #1 but I hate the food McDonalds' produces (which is my right), and it is a scientific fact that their food is nutritionally unhealthy *as a regular diet*: too much fat, too much salt, too much sugar.

Some of these comments confirm my belief that Americans know very little about the food they put in their bodies, and, as a result, we have more than 60% of our population overweight or obese!

Here's the problem: if these people have no health insurance, or limited health insurance, and get sick, the cost of taking care of these people gets shifted to the population as a whole (through higher insurance fees for all of us). So, in addition to my tax dollars subsidizing the corn that feeds McDonalds' cows (100% beef from a mostly corn diet), I also end up subsidizing the medical care of the people who eat the crappy, unhealthy food from McDonalds.

This is the socialization of costs and the privatization of profits. How is this good capitalism?
Yes, it's beautiful when it all comes together like that. And it's even more appreciated when the exception arises. In 1971 I was in Puerto Rico and visited a McDonald's. It was dirty, with slow service, and the trade mark (best) fries were sub standard, e.g., they were the worst I had ever had, anywhere. Now flash forward to 2008, Sacramento, CA. I recognize a similarity in attitude among the employees but the food is standard. However, anything more than a short order is ALWAYS incorrect. In a dozen visits, with medium to large orders a check is required to correct the mistake. Is this a sign of the times? Or is this outlet an exception? I notice that when I see a lot of socializing among the employees (in any business) coupled with inattention toward the customers, the moral may be high but the service is bad.
Regardless of what I think of the food at McD ... years ago, from ages 16-19 I worked at McDonalds - and loved it. They provided training, and before I knew it I was a swing shift manager, responsible for crew, bookeeping ... the whole enchilada. It was a hugely formative experience, and one that I fear is beyond most teenagers today.

To me, McDonalds is capitalist to the core, having always evolved to meet new challenges in its market segment - and (I suspect) will continue to do so in the future.
To post comments, please log in first. The Atlasphere is a social networking site for admirers of Ayn Rand's novels, most notably The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged. In addition to our online magazine, we offer a member directory and a dating service. If you share our enjoyment of Ayn Rand's novels, please sign up or log in to post comments.