Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Fast Food Nation: Chapter 1 Summary

Chapter 1 of Fast Food Nation deals with how the fast food industry came to be with the aid of the founding fathers. The creation of the automobile in the early 1930’s seems to be the basis of the spread of franchises and restaurants. The automobile companies persuaded the Federal Government to produce millions and millions of dollars worth of infrastructure for cars; the new form of “cheap” transportation. As the car industry grew, the public transport system was slowly being drowned. Carl Karcher purchased a small hot dog cart for around $300. Karcher lived in Anaheim California; the soon-to-be birthplace of Fast Food. Karcher soon purchased many other carts as well as his first restaurant. Everything on Southern California now seemed to revolve around cars. People now had access to transportation when they wanted, which lead to dining out more frequently. Everything seemed to have pushed forward with speed, and Americans wanted food - faster. McDonald’s and other fast food restaurants had carhops - people who would bring food to eager customers awaiting in their vehicles. The McDonalds brothers soon got fed up with broken plates and items getting stolen at their fast food joint. They decided to fire all the car hops, replace plates with paper ones and re-envision the kitchen. A worker no longer assembled a whole meal, they were trained to do a certain task such as just grilling raw meat. Another worker would make fries and so on. McDonalds applied assembly line ideas from the factories of the cars that arrived in their parking lot to their own kitchen. This system was not without kinks, even though it was more efficient. At first, drivers weren’t sure what to do when they got to McDonald’s. After a while, people got used to the more efficient restaurant and it became a hit. Between 1960 and 1973 McDonald’s added almost 3000 restaurants to the previously existing 250. Progress was made when the corporations target certain age groups with new methods. Corporations sold more than food, they sold the whole idea of a restaurant. The decorations of a Fast Food restaurant, characters or mascots, and television ads all became part of the fast food ploy. It’s not just about the fries; a meal at MCD’s would be a family activity where the kids would get a toy to play with, a place to play, and leave with a full stomach. The parents would be happy - a cheap meal and their children would be happy.
At least that was the appeal.

Schlosser focuses on the progression of Fast Food from its birth in California to the spread across the nation. Once the spread started, it happened at an even more rapid pace. The Spread of American Fast Food in Asia states that as the food spreads across countries, so does the American lifestyle. It encroaches on local restaurants that offer traditional cuisine. Fast Food is similar to a virus in the way that it spreads.

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