Fast food restaurants are important landmarks of any developed city. In the United States, China, Singapore, UAE, UK, France, Brazil, Chile, thousands of people eat there during lunch breaks. They also get takeout food and dine at home.
Fast food always helps if you’re hungry and very busy. You just have to remember to visit the gym regularly. I myself was saved by the fast food on more than one occasion. You know, there are places where restaurants offer a deep fried sole, seafood looks like seagulls would rather crap on them than eat them, and the only marginally edible objects are ready-to-cook burgers and potato chips, which can usually be bought around the corner three times cheaper anyway. If, stuck in this situation, you crave something better, do check out Subway, Burger King, Applebee’s or some local Teremok (I earnestly recommend to try this Russian eatery) or Juan Maestro. You will have a snack or a full dinner there, you will know how many calories you have eaten, you are responsible for yourself. Fast food meets the requirements of its customers; it has an important role in the present and the future of the food industry.
In spite of that, or perhaps I should say because of that, we are constantly hearing criticism of the fast food industry. «They use GMO,» «They are ruining the younger generation,» «They rob the people,» «They are the spearhead of the Western invasion,” and so on. All these phrases belong to the people who hate capitalism, foreign industry and progress. Evo Morales. Hugo Chavez. Robert Mugabe. Daniel Ortega. Cristina Kirchner. Vladimir Zhirinovsky (leader of LDPR, the Liberal Democratic Party of Russia, an unchallenged symbol of Russian nationalism and jingoism). They would prefer that instead of spending the money on burgers at McDonald’s or sandwiches in Subway, the people would pass it directly into their pockets. This is not surprising: the economic situation in most of these countries is outrageous.
Bolivia, to take just one example, is one of the poorest countries in Latin America, but the level of patriotism and «spirituality» here is off the charts. It is a common knowledge that the poorer and the dirtier is the people’s life, the more «enemies» are there all around the country for the leader to find. Evo Morales, the Bolivian Communist, left-wing racist and unconstitutional dictator, sees enemies everywhere: in Washington, in the capitals of Europe, Chile and Colombia, in Israel and even in his own country. In 2008 he crushed the mass protests of the east part of the country with an extremely bloody military and paramilitary invasion. The people there were guilty of an attempt to separate from Bolivia by a referendum. Later, when the «fascists, separatists and internal enemies» were done with, Evo turned his attention to the fast food industry. Bolivia became the first country in Latin America to ban McDonald’s. The company was forced to close eight restaurants in major cities — La Paz, Cochabamba and Santa Cruz de la Sierra.
A similar, though less brutal situation can be observed in Argentina. I myself recently came here from Chile. I never had any problems with food there. Chile is not the center of the gastronomic arts, like New York, London or Kyoto, but it has an open economy and shows a variety of restaurants and snack bars. Here are the American, Italian, Peruvian, Japanese, Chinese and Mexican places of all kinds and quality levels, from some high-end restaurants in the Costanera Center and the cowboy-restaurants like Bariloche, to simple fast food stands. This is what you need if you tend to work a lot. Plenty of choice, fast service, accessibility and a wide range of prices. The most important for me are the sushi restaurants. The fans of the authentic Japanese culture would denigrate my tastes at this point, but hey, everyone to his own, right? I like the «fast sushi» eateries.
The situation in Argentina is quite gloomy, especially if compared to the magnificence of Santiago. In the center of Buenos Aires you can find the lonely Burger King. A few Subways, most of which can be found only by literally stumbling upon their entrances by accident. Several McDonalds’s: like in Bolivia, where there were only eight restaurants in all of its three largest cities. The sushi restaurants are also hard to find. The national fast food industry is working in an artificially created competitive vacuum – the dream of every patriotic socialist. That’s the government’s way of «helping the national worker». What do the consumers feel in this situation? Pretty much like he was duped: he pays out of his own pocket for limiting his own choice of prices or food types. Add to this the public transportation issues in Buenos Aires (inconvenient subway, confusing bus routes) and the incompetent placement of the fast food restaurants (due mostly to the socialist economics of President Kirchner and Justicialist party), and the result is tragic if predictable: the Argentinians do not use more than 60% of what the already limited fast food chains can offer. The Argentinian peso is already one of the weakest currencies, the inflation in rising, the prices are growing. The presidential elections are coming soon. Whether Kirchner would attempt to be unconstitutionally reelected for the third time (like her partners in ALBA, the neo-Bolshevik alliance, already did), or will nominate a successor, she will have to resort to populist measures. She will need a new enemy and her gaze need not stray far from Subway.
In Russia, where I spent a major part of my life, the situation is also bad. Russia is a traditionally jealous, protectionist country. It prefers to promote its own national industry. It’s an old Soviet syndrome, which is characterized by the desire for self-sufficiency and the isolation from the Western world. In the 1990s the protectionism found itself in retreat and Russia was on its way to becoming an open country. In 1990 the first McDonald’s was opened in Moscow. The fast food culture began developing; it included both the foreign and the quite attractive national restaurants, offering Russian food, such as «Emelya», «Teremok», «Tiny Potato», various pancake-cafés etc. Even under Putin and Medvedev, until about 2012, Russia was very attractive for the food industry investors. However, in 2013-2014 the government changed its political and economic course. Nationalism, support for leftist dictatorships abroad, the creation of economic coalitions opposing the West, and especially the recent Anschluss of Crimea changed Russia’s economic climate. In the annexed Crimea the McDonald’s stopped their work. This caused idiotic glee in the Duma (Russian parliament) and the calls to ban the activities of fast food companies in Russia. In particular, Vladimir Zhirinovsky said that he would «fight to close the McDonalds over the country; and when they are no longer in the picture, we’ll do the same with Pepsi-Cola». The Russian deputies also threatened to start an expropriation of the foreign private companies – as a «response to Western sanctions», obviously. Most of the politicians in Russia are pumping up hysteria about GMO, fast food, soft drinks and more. This will bring about capital flight, and sooner rather than later. And there is no doubt that in the absence of competition, the Russian fast food chains will inevitably deteriorate. But the political freaks like Zhirinovsky are rarely worried by the consequences of their sick plans.
Kitty Sanders, 2014