Psychiatry professor Peter Whybrow comments that what Henry Ford did for cars, McDonald’s did for fast food. It industrialized eating. The original intention of fast food was fast service. However, the end result has been fast eating. Everything about McDonald’s in particular and fast-food in general is about speed. Eleven minutes is the average time a customer spends at a fast-food outlet.
Every effort is made to speed up yet more the food-producing process. An extreme example of how this is done can be found in Thomas Friedman’s book, The World is Flat. He tells of a McDonald’s in Cape Girardeau, Missouri that outsources its drive-through window orders to a firm in Colorado. The customer is ordering a mere five feet away yet must talk to someone two states over to take his order. Friedman points out how this increases efficiency by shaving a few seconds off on each order.
Another way eating is industrialized in fast food is by its standardization and taste engineering. McDonald’s and other chains use a wide variety of synthetic ingredients, artificial sweeteners, high fructose sugars and trans-fats to ensure that each product will always be the same. “In the international fast-food business,” Dr. Whybrow notes, “McDonald’s is the legendary benchmark of standardization, ensuring that a Big Mac will taste exactly the same in Moscow as it does in Chicago.” (Peter C. Whybrow, American Mania: When More is Not Enough, W. W. Norton, New York, 2005, p. 199.)