Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Fast Food Nation (Chp 1)

Preface: I've decided to make Tuesdays my Fast Food Nation day; the book has ten chapters, an introduction, an epilogue, and an afterword, so this feature will go into December. I'm hoping to make the posts a center for thoughtful discussion about the issue, but if that doesn't happen at least I know I'm getting the word out. :)

Chapter One: Notes

This chapter talks about the men who created the biggest fast food chains today, as well as the origin of the whole phenomenon of fast food.
+It started in southern California.
+Originally, fast food restaurants were like Sonic and catered to a teenage clientel; owners wanted to shift to a family-based clientel so that they would've have to worry about teens doing dumb stuff.
+The McDonald brothers designed standard fast food techniques:
[They] eliminated almost two-thirds of the items on their old menu. They got rid of everything that had to be eaten with a knife, spoon, or fork. The only sandwiches now sold were hamburgers or cheeseburgers. The brothers got rid of their dishes and glassware, replacing them with paper cups, paper bags, and paper plates. They divided food preparaion into seperate tasks performed by different workers....For the first time, the guiding principles of a factory assembly line were applied to a commerical kitchen.
+Oddly enough, McDonald's and Hell's Angels were founded in the same year, in the same area. :)

Chapter One: Thoughts
I only found this chapter mildly interesting; I've never been interested in business, so I wasn't really taken by the various stories of entrepeneurs (sp?). Of course, seeing how few notes I took, I bet y'all guessed that. I did enjoy Schlosser's brief forays into cultural history (that's my unofficial term for it).

What struck me most about this chapter was the assembly line restaurant idea. Schlosser points out that thanks to new, idiot-proof techniques, fast food places didn't have to hire talented short order chefs, and they also didn't have to hire waitresses. This whole dumbing down of jobs, which then justifies lower wages, bothers me. I mean, I know in principle that many economists like it because it increases efficiency, but I've never been an efficiency kind of person. Before this, I bet short-order chefs enjoyed their job, or at least got some kind of rush from the variety. Afterwards, doing to the same thing all day, it can't be interesting work.

This was a very short chapter, thus the short post, but I promise next week's will be really, really interesting. It's all about how the fast food industry feeds off of children; guaranteed to get your blood boiling!

4 comments:

Dorothy W. said...

I'm glad you're posting about this, as I don't think I'll read the book, but I can learn a lot about it through you! And I'm prepared for some outrage next week ...

Bybee said...

I read this book a little over 3 years ago when I was laid off from my teaching job. Just so I wouldn't be flat broke, I'd picked up a part time job at Wendy's, so it was really really really difficult to go into work every day during and after reading this book. My blood was boiling through the whole book, but especially the chapter where they talk about how to hold down labor costs in fast food. Sneaky so and so managment. Then I capped things off with a viewing of "Supersize Me". Thus ended my fast food career...forever, I hope!

I tagged you for a book-related meme. Have fun.

Eva said...

Dorothy, glad you're enjoying it!

Bybee, wow. Talk about bad timing!

Christopher said...

This chapter was illuminating to me in how the corporate powers that be were (and are) so intent on cost cutting with their hired help. They slash wages, do not offer benefits, and then, of course, have their employees eat their horrible food that will cause health problems. Lovely and vicious circle.