Complex Made Simple
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Do you buy what fast food outlets are telling you?

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Let’s face it; how often do you have the chance to question your favourite fast food outlet and ask it if it is, for example, poisoning you somehow or planting things in the food to create some sort of addiction?

Not often. But recently, McDonald’s let it happen in the GCC. It allowed customers to ask whatever they wanted and it went ahead answering and publishing the Q&As on its website.

This move is unusable, but is there a reason for this “look who’s talking” little stunt?

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Some Qs and some As

Some of the questions were asked out of allergy fears, like “Do any of your products contain nuts?” or religious-born concerns like “Are your sauces halal?”

To the first, McDonald’s answered that the McFlurry toppings “may” contain nuts and referred the customer to the list of ingredients in its menu. For the halal, the answer was “We can confirm that the sauces used in McDonald’s in the GCC are 100 per cent halal.”

One wanted to know how the chain treated their employees, to which came the diplomatic answer, “our employees are the foundation of our business…,” but it really didn’t explain the salary scale that these same employees get for their hard work, which is around $9 an hour.

David, a customer, asked: “From 1 to 10, honest to God, how real is your food” and the answer came: “It’s definitely real! Our food is similar to the food you’d prepare at home. If you look at our ingredients list, you’d find 100 per cent pure and halal beef and chicken.”

Finally, the shocking answer to the question “What ingredient do you put in a Cheeseburger ?” was “Our standard cheeseburger comes with a grilled beef patty, ketchup, mustard, pickles, onions and a cheese slice in a bun. Hope this answers your question.”

No, sorry. It doesn’t.

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Things that no fast food outlet will answer

Chemicals that we normally associate with cleaning are purposefully put into fast-food meat.

According to a CNN report, compounds like ammonium hydroxide can damage E. coli and other organisms. They also lower the acidity of meats and other foods, making it difficult for pathogens to survive. Is the practice safe? The USDA says yes. Does the idea of eating a chemically-washed burger sound good? No, not really.

On the lighter side of things, no fast food outlet will tell you the perfect time to escape the long lines. Otherwise, there wouldn’t be any long lines and we wouldn’t be fooled into thinking that the busy wait is worth it.

Ever had dull fries? Well, fast food outlets won’t tell us to ask for unsalted French fries, because they would have to produce a fresh batch just for you.

The smell from the kitchen, which you can smell miles away even after you’re back home, is part of their marketing strategy, but they won’t tell you that.

Did you know that Coke is cheaper than tea because it makes you hungrier or that food is tastier when you eat with your hands (it’s why gloves with fast food are a rarity)?

Why do we rush to fast food ?

In an interview with VICE, an online food observer, Dr. Mohsen Bagnied, Chair of the Department of Marketing at the American University of Kuwait, said that fast food really took over local foods.

“People basically replaced domestic or local foods with Western or fast food, and it’s a hamburger culture. Especially among young people, it’s becoming very popular,” Bagnied told the site.

“People also think of it as tasty, clean, fun, and affordable.”

GCC hospitality boom: what you need to know

Tax and accounting firm KPMG, in a 2016 UAE F&B report, said that while consumers said that price was not the main reason behind their choice of restaurants, respondents reported that price increases would change eating out behavior.

“This resonates with the industry executive view that the market has become increasingly price sensitive, with reactions to price increases felt most strongly in the fast food business,” KPMG said.

Bagnied quotes Vice President and International Relationship Partner of McDonald’s Middle East, Yousif Abdulghani, as saying that the franchise is rolling out its strategy to reach $3.5 billion in revenue, 1,700 restaurants and 100,000 staff across the region by the end of the decade.

Half of the brand’s revenue comes from the Gulf, where nearly 500 restaurants are expected to reach 750 in five years’ time.

“McDonald’s makes $6 million dollars per day in the Middle East  selling their products, and $2.2bn annually.”

Healthy appetites

According to a recent Forbes report, some fast food operators are trying to imitate casual restaurants by adding a healthy menu to their offerings at a premium.

“But offering better-for-you food doesn’t always translate to higher sales. That’s because the consumer interest in healthful fare is higher than their desire to eat said fare,” Forbes said.

“The top 10 fast-food brands that ranked highest for “availability of healthy options” in 2015 on Technomic’s Consumer Brand Metrics (CBM) tool, the average year-over-year change in sales for these ten chains was -0.3 per cent.


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