It has been years since I read McDonald’s: Behind the Arches, but I still find myself reflecting on and sharing the lessons I learned from it. McDonald’s is so familiar to all of us that it is tempting to think we understand it and its place in our culture.
But behind the arches there is more than palate-numbing homogeneity: McDonald’s is a fascinating business, and one that is full of surprises. I was fascinated with the real estate component of the McDonald’s business plan; I had not realized how difficult it was to fry a consistent fry (oil temperature is changing constantly); I didn’t know that McDonald’s (poster child for unhealthy eating) instigated significant improvements to our food chain, enforcing its own regulations on slaughterhouses and farmers alike.
Today we bemoan the fact that you can travel 10,000 miles (or to the next freeway exit) and find the hamburger exactly like the one at home, served in an identical setting. What a curse, in a world where we might otherwise eat local, organic beef and vegetables served with a unique local touch . But what a blessing and innovation it was in a world where ground beef meant whatever was on the floor, where local vegetables might make you sick, and where sanitation wasn’t on the task list.