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America’s food distribution system is heavily reliant on fast food restaurant chains, such as McDonalds. While such organizations are a mainstay of the country’s food distribution system, they also threaten the existence of independent, family-owned businesses, employment and even homogenize the country’s culture.
The fast food industry had modest beginnings in the South; these business entities existed as drive-throughs and restaurants. However, it is almost impossible to overlook a fast food restaurant in any major public institution around the country. Airports, elementary schools, airplanes, hospitals and even stadia have at least one restaurant franchise.
As a consequence, Americans spend more money on fast food than they do on several other consumer items like books or cars. 75% of the nation consumes fast food from these franchises (Schlosser 55). Such choices have consequences on the existence and survival of other businesses in the food distribution system.
When America’s food is sold by mega corporations, there are implications on the country’s wages, supply systems as well as competition in the sector. Unraveling these effects will determine the true costs of the franchises.
This topic was highly interesting to me as well as to members of my community because a food giant like McDonald’s has adverse implications on the community’s economy.
Purchasing decisions made by the organizations determine a community’s food industry viability. Furthermore, since several individuals personally identify with fast food restaurant brands, it is essential to understand how consumers contribute to challenges in self-employment and employment as well.
Every time a person becomes loyal to a restaurant chain, he or she is propagating one of the worst effects of capitalism. The McDonalds of this country epitomize dominance by the have-nots as their wage bills are the worst. Not only do workers earn minimum wage, they also lack assurances from their employers concerning job security. This explains why they keep moving from one fast food job to another.
When one analyses almost all franchise systems, one immediately notices that these restaurants strive to maintain one quality of production, and that is uniformity. Customers know that regardless of where they purchase their item, a pizza from Domino’s will almost always cost and taste the same.
Food franchises around the country regard uniformity as their unique selling point. In fact, one of McDonald’s founders stated that the corporation is quick to eliminate non conformists. They threaten the survival of the institution and must be streamlined as quickly as possible.
Homogenization is evident in marketing, production and innovation in this industry. Indeed, it is the success of firms that pursue homogenization in food distribution that caused several businesses to adopt the same notion. This pattern eventually prioritizes efficiency over other human values. It gives one a glimpse of what the country stands to loose if it keeps pursuing this brand of capitalism.
In order to understand what the industry really means to Americans, one should start with the history of the food franchise system. Initially, in the first half of the twentieth century, people purchased their hot dogs and hamburgers from drive-ins. However, one organization threatened the very existence of these enterprises, and it was known as McDonalds.
Richard and Mac had been in the drive-in food business for a while, but were dissatisfied by its returns. They spent most of their time looking for specialized cooks because the ones they hired often left their positions for more lucrative job opportunities. These two brothers also realized that they were spending a lot of money in the replacement of dishes as their younger clients would often mishandle them.
In 1948, the entrepreneurs decided that they would change the items they sold, the dishware they used and even the process of production. First, they purchased a large grill, in which they would make more burgers within a short period of time. They also replaced their fragile dishes with disposables and plastics. The businessmen hired different workers for different aspects of the hamburger preparation process.
This division of labor would ascertain that even amateurs could learn the skill quickly and work for the organization as soon as they got in. It was no longer necessary to hire specialized cooks who were difficult to find and expensive to keep. The company then selected the only ingredients that would be placed in the burger. Any person who attempted to change these ingredients would immediately loose their job.
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This food assembly line made McDonalds’ and several other franchises one of the most efficient businesses in the country. Drive–ins had to close because they could not deliver food at the same prices as the franchises. With time, these chains spread countrywide (Pollan 100).
The production process at several restaurant chains discourages workers to innovate; however, one should not assume that these organizations do not carry out research and development. In fact, a large majority of these institutions engage in extensive use of technology. The only difference between them and specialized restaurants is that they leave that work to higher-level managers.
Typical Pizza Hut employees do not know what it takes to change a system. They merely play their part and wait for their paycheck. The individual has thus been trivialized and made to appear insignificant in this system. Employees cannot ask for much because they are easily replaceable.
It is no wonder many of them cannot access work benefits or even permanent employment. Doing so would mean transferring power and control away from the large corporation into small hands. Management determines the quality, techniques and speed at which products are produced.
Therefore, the skills and talents of workers are devalued. This explains why turnover rates are alarming within the industry. In one year, a restaurant chain can fire a worker once every three months. Even the firms’ attitude towards unionization of workers illustrates this aspect. Employees do not qualify for overtime regardless of how much time they put into their businesses (Weber 120).
One would argue that these restaurant chains have created entrepreneurial opportunities for several franchise owners. However, such managers have no freedom to change production. Those who choose to do so can easily loose their licenses. Their job is simply to continue what senior managers have started.
Any franchisee who threatens the uniformity of the institution will harm the company’s ability to stay efficient, and this means that they have to be dispensed.
Independent businesses within the entire food supply chain have also been adversely affected by this business model. Every year, the firm opens approximately two thousand new chains, and these consume a lot of products. It is a given fact that McDonalds’ buys the largest chunk of potatoes in the nation; the same is true for meat.
Therefore, meat and potato producers have to make contractual agreements with the institution. When a buyer has so much buying power, then he can control the way products are consumed as well as their prices. It is not surprising that the company selects processed foods for sale. Several consumers have no say in the safety and health choices of their foods because mega corporations like McDonalds’ make those choices for them.
It should also be noted that this food purchaser is so influential that it led to the creation of a new breed of chicken, which would be part of the McNuggets combination.
It comes as no surprise that large fast food restaurant chains would liaise with other large-scale food suppliers to access their raw materials more efficiently. As a consequence, the small-scale farmer looses out because he has no chance of winning contracts from such a big buyer. These independent farmers are not as reliable as the large-scale ones.
Similarly, independent restaurant owners also have challenges competing with fast food franchises. They still struggle with some of the problems that McDonalds’ had at its inception. Many consumers stick to brands they know even though the quality of the food is questionable.
Therefore, the average American will select a food franchise over a relatively unknown family restaurant. This means that they will not purchase food that is ethically-raised or healthily-grown as fast food franchises do not prioritize these issues.
McDonald’s and other restaurant chains will continue to be more successful since smaller entrepreneurs keep being chocked out. This widens the gap between the rich and the poor, and hampers economic growth among the masses (Schlosser 156).
Fast food restaurant franchises have chocked competition in the food distribution system as they control food suppliers and food prices. Small independent restaurants cannot stay in business as consumers stick to familiar fast-food brands. Furthermore, they devalue employees as these individuals lack skills and can be easily dispensed.
Pollan, Michael. Omnivore’s dilemma. NY: Penguin Publishers, 2009. Print.
Schlosser, Eric. Fast food nation: The dark side of the all-American meal. NY: Mariner Books, 2003. Print.
Weber, Karl. Food inc.: A participant’s guide: How industrial food is making us sicker, fatter, and poorer-And what you can do about it. Chicago: Public Affairs, 2009. Print.