McDo: Glocalism Gone Wrong?

June 25, 2009

Article on Slate today about McDonald’s conquest of the French market… Very interesting case of corporate co-option of local customs without actually changing the substance of the product:

What especially cheesed off Daguin and other chefs was that McDonald’s was being taxed as a carryout establishment even though the overwhelming majority of its customers actually chose to dine chez McDo. French diners tended to treat McDonald’s as if it were no different than the bistro around the corner: They came, they ate, and they lingered. As Gravier artfully put it, “The French population uses McDonald’s in a very French way; it is fast food, but not that fast.” The data the company collected bore this out. Americans visited McDonald’s more often than the French, at all hours of the day, frequently alone, and opted for takeout 70 percent of the time. The French spent more money per visit, came in groups more often than Americans, and did 70 percent of their eating during regular lunch and dinner hours. “We have a food culture in France; eating is not a feeding moment, it is a social moment,” Gravier said.

Though I’ve often found myself intrigued by Scott Payne’s many posts on the subject of glocalism, part of me wonders if McDo won’t wind up being the end outcome of a globalization-friendly, “unity-without-violence-to-particulars” agenda, unity here being represented by global brands aggressively adapting themselves to local cultures with very little modification to their actual products.  Certainly there are echoes here of the daily, face-to-face contact advocated by the localists, even semi-local (okay, just domestic) ingredients, but it seems that the absence of genuine difference at the level of food should be troubling… It may be localized monoculture, but its still monoculture, with many of the attendant problems that come with that.

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One Response to “McDo: Glocalism Gone Wrong?”

  1. E.D. Kain said

    It’s very difficult to know what’s best. I think, in the end, it is the subsidization of these multi-national corporations that is the problem. Without it, perhaps it would be easier for local establishments to compete – and perhaps that need to compete would make said local establishments produce better service and higher quality goods, food, whatever.

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