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The McWorld of golden arches

The brand has lent itself to several schools of serious academic thought from the nutritional value of the food served to the cultural significance of the brand itself

editorials Updated: May 18, 2018 18:49 IST
Combination of the logos for fast food giants McDonald’s and Burger King. In a book about the struggle between the world’s drive for more prosperity and the desire to retain identity and traditions; author Thomas Friedman puts forward a (contested) theory called the ‘Golden Arches Theory’, that posits that no two countries that both had McDonald’s had fought a war against each other since each got its McDonald’s.(AFP file)

Seventy eight years ago this past week, brothers Richard and Maurice McDonald set up a drive-in restaurant in San Bernardino, California, called “McDonald’s Bar-B-Que” which would come to eventually revolutionise the way that food was consumed around the world. One of the most important things that the brothers McDonald did at this restaurant over the next few years was finetune their delivery structure. They came up with what they called the “Speedee Service System”, an assembly line model for making hamburgers and to deliver them to customers in record time — truly fast food.

By 1948, the restaurant was known simply as McDonald’s, servers (or carhops) had been eliminated to make it a self service operation, and the assembly line model had been implemented to continued success. McDonald’s became the massive brand it is under Ray Kroc, who joined the brothers to expand the franchisee structure and eventually bought them out, in order to create the behemoth that is now McDonald’s. The burger, fries, and a drink model of a meal has now found its way to more than a hundred countries and has more than 36,000 restaurants worldwide.

So ubiquitous have the golden arches of McDonald’s become that the symbol is one of the most recognisable brands in the world. The brand has lent itself to several schools of serious academic thought from the nutritional value of the food served to the cultural significance of the brand itself. In a documentary film directed by and starring Morgan Spurlock called Super Size Me, he eats nothing but McDonald’s food for 30 days, producing drastic negative effects on his physical and mental health.

In a book about the struggle between the world’s drive for more prosperity and the desire to retain identity and traditions, Thomas Friedman puts forward a (contested) theory called the Golden Arches Theory, which posits that no two countries that both had McDonald’s had fought a war against each other since each got its McDonald’s. Yet another academic — sociologist George Ritzer — uses the phrase McDonaldisation of Society to describe how the world has become more culturally homogeneous as a direct result of globalisation. The brand has found so much traction that many ‘McWords’ have invaded the popular lexicon. A ‘McJob’, for instance, is a low-wage job in which a person is an interchangeable cog in a large corporate machine; a megachurch more caught up in commercialism than religion is called a ‘McChurch’.

In almost eight decades of existence, McDonald’s has gone from one small fast food joint to becoming a symbol of the capitalist enterprise.

First Published: May 18, 2018 18:49 IST