Different approaches to the fast food dilemma

By Kelsey – November 10, 2010

Fast food has gotten a lot of negative press over the past decade. The 2004 film Super Size Me captured the public’s fear by showing us the dangers of fast food, and we have been bombarded with the disgusting truth about our favorite combo meals ever since.

Photo Courtesy of Christian Science Monitor

Until recently, the responsibility has lain with the individual to make the decision to avoid fast food. But with a schedule as packed as the wallet is empty, most Americans find it hard to pass up a quick, cheap meal.

Fortunately, fast food restaurants are starting to reshape their philosophies to make their fare meet the needs of increasingly health-aware consumers. But not all fast food chains are taking a positive approach.

Take, for example, the McRib. Remember the “Boneless Pig Farmer’s Association of America” spoof? McDonald’s acknowledged the McRib’s mysterious origin with this now defunct website, and they’re back at it again with the contest to create your own legendary origin of the McRib.

The contest is part of McDonald’s new marketing campaign built around the mysterious origin of the McRib sandwich. That is, what the sandwich is made of. To win, McRib lovers must submit a video detailing the fantastical beginning to the McRib sandwich. It’s a safe bet that entries won’t include a factory floor covered in feces, or a glob of white meat product tunneled through the ceiling, which is how most of McDonald’s food materializes.

The contest is a pathetic response to growing anti-fast food sentiment. In acknowledging that the McRib is essentially mystery meat with no certain origin, and by asking the public to participate in the project, McDonald’s appears to be letting us in on the joke. But with 60 million Americans classified as obese and 123 million considered overweight, are we really in on the joke? Or is the joke on us?

Compare the McDonald’s approach to Wendy’s, who is reshaping its menu to cater to the increasingly aware public. They debuted their high fiber Apple Pecan Chicken salad over the summer, and just announced that they’d try a healthier model of their French fry. Wendy’s goal is to use more natural products (russet potatoes with sea salt) with better blends of vegetable oil, without increasing the menu price. By making their menu options healthier, Wendy’s takes an admirable– and much welcomed– approach to catering to the increasingly aware public.

Both McDonald’s and Wendy’s are attempting to reshape their philosophy to attract the health-aware consumer, but improving what we see on the menu is the only way to improve our sentiment towards fast food.

Will you try Wendy’s new fries? What do YOU think fast food chains should do to respond to the anti-fast food sentiment? Comment below!


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