Fast Food Advertising – Too Good To Be True

By: Parth Mukhi

Have you ever just stared at your fast food meal and thought, “Wow, this is not at all what I was expecting.” When you go to order fast food, you look at the displays they have outside their store. You gaze back at the large, bold font words entrapping your attention. “Succulent”, “Tender”, “Delicious”, is what they say. To top it all off, the food in the picture’s always look even better than the words can describe. All that anticipation & excitement comes crashing down when the cashier hands you the food, you unwrap it, and you see mushed up pile of bread-meat-bread.

How do McDonald’s, Subway, Wendy’s, Taco Bell do this? In the same manner that film companies put their actors & actresses through hours of make up to get them perfect for the screen, these food companies go through extensive preparation for the advertisement of their food. Burgers, tacos, and salads all go through a photo shoot where they are touched up to look like the perfect product.

The food itself is prepared at the studio. From there, the food stylists take over. For burgers, they’ll push all the main ingredients to the foreground, making them standout. Cheese & patty are steamed to make them seem more appetizing. Following this, skewers are placed in the burgers to keep everything in an attractive, upright position. Subway sandwiches always look much more bulky in the commercials because the studios will add cardboard or foam in between the layers. Fast food salads will never look like they do in the ads, and have never tasted like an normal salad should. In order to give them that fresh & tasty look, they are sprayed with a bottle of glycerin. Finally, all the food is fixed up with photoshop, to enhance every last detail.

Company respond to these claims by saying that the food moves, or that the packaging & backing may cause for the food to be squashed. Though the companies are including everything in the burger that they claimed would be there, people still preach false advertising is in play. Technically, these companies are doing nothing legally wrong, and day after day people go back to these fast food restaurants and buy their food. At the end of the day, false advertising can be shouted from the mountain tops, but will it ever effect whether people decide to go out and buy fast food?

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McDonald’s Makes Nutrition Info More Accessible for Customers

McDonald’s and other fast food chains have had to respond to requests to be more transparent about the nutritional content of their food in recent years. At the 2006 Olympic Winter Games in Torino, Italy, McDonald’s first included nutritional information on its packaging. Now this same information is available on restaurant menu boards, brochures, tray liners and online. Just recently, McDonald’s took the next big step in making consumer information readily available, including QR codes on its new packaging on all carry-out bags and fountain beverage cups that direct mobile users to online nutritional content.

Last week the QR codes were released for the first time in the U.S. and they will continue to be released throughout 2013. The text will also be translated into 18 different languages, marking the QR codes as a global initiative. McDonald’s is hoping that its new packaging will help the company communicate its brand through a blend of informative text and illustrations. Customers now have access to unlimited information with their mobile devices, and QR code packaging will help them get connected to McDonald’s much more efficiently.

“Our new packaging is designed to engage with customers in relevant ways and celebrate our brand,” said Kevin Newell, chief brand officer. “Customers tell us they want to know more about the food they are eating and we want to make that as easy as possible by putting this information right at their fingertips.”

In September, McDonald’s began listing calorie information on restaurant and drive-thru menus nationwide. This move is partially motivated by citywide laws on nutrition information, like New York City’s war on saturated fats and laws forcing chain restaurants to publicly post calorie information, as well as consumer data indicating a preference for more transparency. McDonald’s consulted its Global Advisory Council, a group of independent advisors on nutrition, public health and fitness. The group urged McDonald’s to provide customers with access to nutritional information.

At the end of 2011 McDonald’s launched a mobile app for customers with more nutrition information and an online “meal-builder”. These changes, in addition to a recently published nutrition progress report demonstrate that McDonald’s is raising the bar for fast food restaurants and nutrition. Almost a decade after the documentary Super Size Me slammed McDonald’s and the fast food industry, McDonald’s is increasing health awareness proactively rather than waiting for legislation to fall into place.

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New York City Fast Food Workers Strike for Better Pay

Workers at Burger King, McDonald’s and Wendy’s have gone on strike in New York City in protest of their low wages and their trouble starting a union to organize and demand their rights. These strikes follow closely after the nationwide strikes at Walmart, which has notoriously prevented its workers from unionizing and increasing their wages.

Workers began striking Thursday, protesting outside a Burger King near Penn Station standing behind a metal barricade with union organizers, clergy and other fast food workers. Inside the restaurant there were two customers, a security guard and a few cashiers. Customers have mostly avoided the chaos, and protestors hope to change the structure of the fast food industry where workers typically drift between jobs without much room for growth.

The strikes may be due to changing demographics among fast food workers, where teenagers working part-time jobs have been replaced with laid off workers, parents and families looking to support themselves. Organizers from New York Communities for Change helped coordinate protests among fast food workers.

“Especially now after the recession, a lot of people who lost work are now taking these jobs. Our economy is becoming a service sector economy but most of these jobs are minimum wage. This is a huge problem”, said Jonathan Westin, organizing director at New York Communities for Change.

The workers are specifically requesting the ability to form unions and to be paid at least $15 an hour. Fast food workers make approximately $8.90 an hour, which is the lowest of any occupation. These workers usually move to other jobs instead of demanding raises at their current ones, and the franchises that own each fast food establishment actively block attempts at unionization.

The event organizers have not been completely clear about their plans to unionize workers, but they intend to change standards across the whole industry rather than just at individual franchises. Despite the striking employees, franchise owners will most likely continue to pay workers on a store-by-store basis across New York.

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Burger King Offers Intimidating Buffet in Japan

Burger King Japan has made plenty of headlines with its adventurous additions to the fast food market earlier this year. Fast food chains in Japan have fought a recent marketing war, resulting in some truly strange creations. Burger King’s New York Pizza Burger, McDonalds’ Mega Tomago with egg and bacon and the Lobster Surf and Turf Burger from Wendy’s are just a few examples of these innovative fast food items. Now Burger King seems to have taken the lead with new creations, offering a Pumpkin Burger, Black Bun Burger and Five-Patty Whopper.

Now Japan’s Burger King Restaurants are setting up a promotion in honor of their fifth anniversary; an all-you-can-eat burger buffet. Customers have the opportunity to devour as many hamburgers, fries or onion rings as possible in the thirty minutes allotted to each person.

This buffet is called “B’iKing”, meant to be a play on words for the Japanese word for Burger King and the word “Viking”, which means all-you-can-eat buffet. Anyone planning on taking a trip to Japan in the next few days should try to fit this once-in-a-lifetime buffet into their schedule. The special runs from November 17th until November 21st for black bun burgers, and November 22nd until November 30th for Whoppers.

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McDonald’s Posts Calorie Content

Many New Yorker’s are already accustomed to the mandatory calorie information they see posted at McDonald’s restaurants throughout the city, now the chain is posting this information at all of its locations nationwide. Starting Monday the chain will post calorie information on restaurant and drive-thru menus, working to voluntarily post this information before a regulation is passed that would mandate restaurants to post this information nationwide.

McDonald’s already posts calories information in New York, Philadelphia, Australia, South Korea and the United Kingdom. They hope to soon post this information in South America as well. “We want to voluntarily do this,” said Jan Fields, president of McDonald’s USA. “We believe it will help educate customers. When it’s all said and done, the menu mix doesn’t change. But I do think people feel better knowing this information.”

This move comes as a preemptive response to the Supreme Court’s decision to approve President Obama’s healthcare changes. In these changes one regulation requires that restaurant chains with over 20 locations must post the calorie content of their food. While restaurants still have time to sort out their menus before the law comes into play, few other chains have responded so readily. Wendy’s has yet to make a response, Burger King and Yum Brands (the owner of KFC and Taco Bell) said that they are waiting for more information before they proceed.

The ultimate goal of posting calorie information at these restaurants is to raise awareness about what we eat. “Obesity isn’t the kind of thing where one day you wake up and you’re fat. We gradually and slowly gain weight over time,” said Margo Wootan, director of nutrition at the Center for Science in the Public Interest. Wootan believes that this move could have a large effect over time, and could help sway some people to make better choices with what they eat.

Regulators are also hoping that restaurant chains will make an extra effort to provide healthier food after seeing the calorie content publicly posted. “It can be embarrassing, or shocking, so they end up changing the way the product is made,” Wootan said.

McDonald’s is already testing some healthier options, like the Egg White Delight, an Egg McMuffin with egg white, Canadian bacon and white cheddar cheese on a whole grain muffin, clocking in at 260 calories. New McWraps are being tested as well, ranging from 350 to 580 calories. This is a stark contrast to a Big Mac meal, which would amount to about 1,140 calories. McDonald’s faces strong competition from chains like Subway that market themselves as healthy alternatives to fast food.

McDonald’s efforts to get ahead of the game by posting calorie content voluntarily may simply be a savvy public relations move however. Corporate Accountability International is a group that has previously urged McDonald’s to stop marketing food to children. They say that McDonald’s has attempted to stop similar regulations in the past, and their latest move was certainly not voluntary. While the chain instituted a rule earlier this year that automatically includes apple slices in Happy Meals, Sara Deon from Corporate Accountability International said that it was nothing but a “PR scheme designed to drive traffic to stores to sell burgers and fries.”

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McDonald’s Plans to Open First Vegetarian Restaurants in India

McDonald’s is closely associated with American fast-food, consisting mostly of hamburgers and fries. However the chain plans to open its first two vegetarian restaurants in India, in 2013. McDonalds’ Olympic sponsorship stirred up some controversy for the brand, but they already succeeded in opening up the world’s largest McDonald’s location in London earlier this year. Now the restaurant chain will be opening two new locations near the Golden Temple in the holy city of Amritsar and the town of Katra. This area is traditionally meat-free and is also India’s second busiest pilgrimage spot.

McDonald’s has a huge international presence, but it considers India to be a largely untapped market. “There is a big opportunity for vegetarian restaurants as many Indian are vegetarian,” said Rajesh Maini, a spokesperson for McDonald’s in northern India. “At the moment, India is still a very small market – we just have 271 restaurants in India, and across the world we have nearly 33,000.”

By going vegetarian, McDonald’s has an opportunity to increase its popularity and presence in areas it previously was not allowed. McDonald’s hopes the double its number of restaurants in India in the next three years. McDonald’s has already made changes to its menu to better serve the country’s large Indian and Muslim population. None of the locations in India serve beef or pork, preparing chicken, lamb, fish and vegetarian options instead.

Some of these special menu items include the McAloo Tikki, a deep fried spicy mashed potato patty, and the McSpicy Paneer which is a patty made out of traditional Indian cheese. However these items may just be a start of what to expect from McDonald’s locations. “Since this is going to be an exclusive vegetarian restaurant, we will have to look at opening more products,” Maini said.

However in India the support for McDonalds’ new locations is not entirely uniform, as many religious groups are opposed to the fast food chain’s further expansion. One Hindu nationalist group called Swadeshi Jagran Manch called McDonalds’ plan to open a restaurant in Katra an attempt to “humiliate Hindus”.

“It’s an attempt not only to make money but also to deliberately humiliate Hindus. It is an organization associated with cow slaughter. If we make an announcement that they’re slaughtering cows, people won’t eat there. We are definitely going to fight it,” said national co-convener S. Gurumurthy.

This outrage toward McDonald’s reflects events from 2001 after McDonald’s was found to be flavoring its French fries with beef fat. Hindus nationalist politicians called for the chain to be evicted from India and vandalism occurred at various locations throughout the country. Plaintiffs representing the Hindus and vegetarians of America accused McDonald’s of deliberately misleading its American customers. McDonald’s responded by saying it never claimed its French fries were vegetarian in the US. The chain also stated that it never used beef or pork by-products at locations in India.

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London Assembly Seeks to Ban McDonald’s and Coca Cola at the Onset of the Olympics

McDonald’s is poised to open its new location in London, set to be the largest location in the world with a staff of 500 and seating for 1,500 people. This move is in conjunction with its longtime sponsorship of the Olympics, and the location will be dismantled after the conclusion of the Olympic Games. However, opponents of McDonald’s and fellow Olympic sponsor Coca Cola are calling for a ban of these brands at 2012’s Olympic Games.

Less than a month before the Olympics begin, the London Assembly has voted to call for a ban on both sponsors. They feel that because the Olympics represent the world’s best athletes, two companies that contribute to obesity and provide high-calorie food should not be the event’s primary sponsors. The London Assembly is an elected group of officials that monitors the activities of the Mayor of London and may amend the mayor’s annual budget. The Assembly urges the International Olympic Committee to adopt strict criteria in choosing sponsors of the Games, excluding companies that contribute to poor health like McDonald’s and Coca Cola.

Coca Cola however is the Olympic Games’ longest-running sponsor, supporting the event since 1928. McDonald’s has also sponsored the Olympic Games since 1976, and the two companies have developed a mutually beneficial relationship with the athletic event. These sponsors are crucial to the continued success of the Olympic Games, which relies on these commercial partnerships to continue. In fact, sponsors account for over 40% of Olympic revenues, and McDonald’s and Coca Cola have been two of the largest contributors for many years.

Though UK doctors claims that the Olympic sponsorships of these two companies sends the wrong message in a country facing high obesity rates, their sponsorship is necessary for the continuation of the Olympic Games. According to McDonald’s UK’s chief executive however, some of these accusations are unfounded given the company’s recent attempts to improve the nutritional content of their menu. “We do offer a breadth of menu. You can see on the menu here we have grilled chicken wraps, we have salads, fruit smoothies as well as the more indulgent recipes that people know and love.”

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New Study Pays $3500 to Eat Fast Food for 3 Months

Washington University in St. Louis is conducting a study on obesity, asking participants to take part in it with a hefty bribe to destroy their bodies for a mere three months.

The school is offering participants the opportunity to eat all the fast food they want for three months, and in return receive $3,500 for their trouble. During the course of the study participants have to gain five percent of their body weight during the duration of the study.

Dr Sam Klein has organized the study, and sees fast food as a necessary means to measure weight gain. “By choosing fast foods, we can regulate that food intake much better than trying to tell people to try and decide on their own eating food at home, which require judgment and education on what you’re eating. By going to eat fast food, we know exactly what they’re eating.”

The study aims to differentiate why some overweight people develop diabetes and other cardiovascular risk factors, while others do not.

In order to take part in the study, participants must be between 18 and 65 years old, non-smokers, non-diabetic and already be at least thirty pounds overweight. After the study culminates in three months, participants will be entered into a weight loss program to lose it.

The study allows participants to eat from the following list of fast food restaurants. To sign up for the study click here.

– McDonald’s
– Taco Bell
– Burger King
– Pizza Hut

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Fast Food Restaurants Explore Modern Designs

Today’s fast food restaurants face stiff challenges on every front from their competitors. Burger King and Wendy’s have already both remodeled their French Fries to make them more “natural”, in keeping with today’s healthier food trends. This, in addition to constant new menu items and healthier choices, such as McDonalds’ new Happy Meal options for children, reflect a changing era for traditional fast food enterprises. It’s no surprise then that structural design has become the next facet of these companies to modernize for the 21st Century.

Chipotle was the first to structure their locations based on a model reflecting the Denver-based fast food chains core values and principles. When Chipotle chose to expand their locations, they based their model off their core business philosophy, “simple materials put together creatively”. The concept has an industrial feel, but leaves room for each individual storefront to be designed. The materials used in all 1100 locations are elemental, but used together creatively in Bruce Gueswel wall-art and individual decorations. With concrete, stainless steel and birch wood, Chipotle has managed to mirror the concept of natural ingredients in their foods.

Wendy’s is currently testing four different prototypes for a new store model in different cities. The prototypes range from traditional to ultra-modern with ten new stores in five cities, and Wendy’s carefully monitoring feedback from each location. The new changes include tiled floors rather than carpeting and more varied seating styles, such as lounge seats. These changes, coupled with a slew of new menu items mark a new era for Wendy’s that some believe could propel the company into the number two fast food slot, right behind McDonald’s.

McDonald’s has been experimenting with new designs as well, updating its France location with beautiful Parisian décor. Other brands have been toying with design changes as well, including Burger King and Subway. Something each of these companies is looking to fulfill with their new designs is customer satisfaction beyond initial appeal. While it’s easy for a business to create a new design that customers are initially pleased with, the real goal is to create a design that succeeds in the long run and keeps customer pleased months later. In today’s economy fast food restaurants have emerged as an affordable staple food source for many Americans and modernizing their design just acts to instill them in our culture.

Chipotle has already experienced enormous success in its store design, rapidly expanding every day. Chipotle has also incorporated sustainable architecture to their buildings, with recycling programs, tankless water heaters, high-efficiency appliances, and durable and non-toxic products. At one location in Illinois the store generate 5% of its own electricity and was the first restaurant ever awarded Platinum Level LEED certification by the U.S. Green Building Council. Changes like these have helped Chipotle become perfectly acclimated to the current expectations of their customers, a trend that more fast food restaurants are heavily investing in.

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