Growth of the fast food industry
The fast food industry is being driven by fundamental changes in American society. Since the 1970s there has been a steady decline in the hourly wage (adjusted for inflation) of the average US worker. Additionally more and more American mothers were working outside the home. In 1975, about 1/3 of US mothers with young children held jobs. That ratio has risen to 2/3 at the beginning of the 21st century. A generation ago, three-quarters of the money used to buy food in the US was spent to prepare meals at home. Today, about half of that same money is spent in restaurants - mainly fast food restaurants. In 1968, McDonald's had 1,000 restaurants - today it has about 30,000, and 2,000 new ones are opening each year.
- an estimated one in every ten workers in the US has, at some point worked at a McDonald's restaurant.
- it is the nation's largest purchaser of beef, pork and potatoes and largest of chicken (KFC is number two);
- it has replaced Coca Cola as the world's most famous brand, but serves it in its establishments;
- it operates more playgrounds - designed to attract children and their parents to its restaurants - than any other private entity in the US;
- the Golden Arches are now more widely recognized than the Christian cross.
- Ronald McDonald is more widely recognized by American children than Jesus.
Schlosser quotes of "the McDonaldization of America": He viewed the emerging fast food industry as a threat to independent business, as a step toward a food economy dominated by giant corporations, and as a homogenizing influence on American life. In Eat Your Heart Out
(1975), he argued that "bigger is not better". Much of what Hightower feared has become a reality. He believes that the centralized purchasing decisions of the large restaurant chains e.g.
McDonald's, KFC, Burger King and Pizza Hut now have an unprecedented degree of power over the nation's food supply, as well as "wiping out small businesses, obliterating regional differences, and spreading identical stores throughout the country like a self-replicating code.