The Illusion of Efficiency in a Fast Food Nation

I guess I can proudly say that I am not a fast food kid (although I am not a kid anymore). Having a really, really sensitive stomach, I (almost) can’t have any fried food, which make it almost impossible to have a regular meal at a fast-food restaurant. I was chatting with my roommate one day about food, and she told me that the food she craved for the most in foreign countries were hamburgers from a fast food restaurant; it was at that point I realized I was standing on the land of a fast food nation. Fast food culture is rooted here.

There are many reasons why America becomes a fast food nation. I would argue that the pursuit of efficiency definitely plays an important role. Ever since the well-known first Ford Model T assembly-line was put into work and created miraculous profits, efficiency becomes a faith. Fast food agrees and actively promotes the belief. Advertisement for fast food is often designed to show the convenience, and the introduction of drive-through service is an epitome of the efficient kingdom. However, I can’t help asking, do we REALLY need to save all those time?

I definitely comprehend that it is important to save time. What I really try to ask is that do you really need to save time (for more important issues) or are you just happy with the idea that you have saved time? This is not an easy question to answer. However, study does show that fast food could potentially make people hurry regardless of whether they are pushed for time. When you choose to eat fast food for your lunch, you subconsciously praise yourself for saving time. This praise becomes an extra reward that comes with the fast food meal, which can later on serves as an incentive for you to buy fast food again. In other words, the recognition of the efficiency of fast food increases your preferences for time-saving products, which forms a positive feedback of buying more fast food and getting more recognition. [Read More]

Now let’s say that you are super busy and you want to save any possible time you can. Then the second question to ask is that are you really saving time or are you just being impatient? In fact, results obtained from study suggest that “the unconscious goal of saving time embedded in fast food may have the unexpected consequence of inducing haste and impatience”. [Quote] When you walk into a fast food restaurant, the background music, bright colour decorations, fast moving line, and the talking speed of the servers are factors that push you to be fast. The result is that, even though you are not in a rush, you just do not have the patience to sit down and eat your meal slowly and patiently. You feel like rushing, and you want to finish your burger as soon as possible. Furthermore, once you link efficiency with fast food, anything that is fast-food-related, say a fast food advertisement, reminds you about the linkage, and study suggests that those chronic exposures have significant long-term impacts on your patience. When you gobble a burger with an incredible speed, maybe it is a good idea to take a step back and ask yourself if you really need to consume 900 calories in 5 minutes. [Read More]

“Fast food represents a culture of time efficiency and instant gratification. The problem is that the goal of saving time gets activated upon exposure to fast food regardless of whether time is a relevant factor in the context.”  – [Quote]

In fact, if we get just a little deeper into the issue, the question should be rephrased as if it is worth to save time by consuming 900 calories in 5 minutes. Since fast food is so highly processed and much of its flavour and texture are destroyed, it depends heavily on seasoning. Fast food is heavy on fat, salt, sugar, and reduced nutrient, which can lead to obesity and a range of health problems, including diabetes, heart disease, and liver dysfunction. [Read More] Therefore, the time you “saved” comes from compromising your health and longevity! If you think that your health grants you more life time, then you definitely should think that saving time by purchasing a fast food meal is a losing proposition. Moreover, the real cost of fast food is not reflected (at all) by its price. The cost for the negative impacts on health is not taken into account. About 300,000 people die each year from being obese or overweight, and fast food consumption definitely contributes to it. [Read More]

The issue of obesity leads to another really important topic – the ethnicity of fast food. Is it ethical for fast food advertisement to target on children? Fast food ads often try to link their restaurants and food with popularity, convenience, and cost-effectiveness. However, they have no incentive to provide children with the whole image. They sure know that a combo meal can sometimes provide enough calories that you need for a whole day and more salt than you should take. However, those pieces of information are hidden behind the brightness of images. Since marketing and advertising of fast food succeed more than the restaurants themselves do, American children now get approximately a quarter of their total vegetable servings in the form of potato chips and French fries and 10% of daily calories from soda [Information]. The consequence is that fifteen percent of American children are overweight, and the rate of obesity has doubled since the late 1970s. Instead of taking some responsibilities, the fast food companies are still creating richer combos, providing larger portions, expanding businesses, and putting more effort into marketing. While the providers of those foods are not obligated to provide the information and warning about the cost resulted from consuming fast food, overweight children and their parents have to pay for negative impacts. Whether the system is ethical or not definitely remains controversial. [Read More]

The prevalence of fast food in a way represents people’s pursuits of efficiency. However, when fast food becomes a food culture of a nation together with the pursuit, things can go wrong easily. The information that you subconsciously give yourself in evaluating whether it is worth to purchase a fast food meal can often be misleading, and the responses form a positive feedback which encourages you to keep buying. However, the time and money saved from eating fast food cannot possibly compensate for the degradation of your health, both physically and economically. It is crucial to remember the old saying: you are what you eat. While we should push fast food companies to be more responsible for children and society, we also need to remind ourselves that we always have the powerful option of saying “no” to unethical, unhealthy fast food. 



One thought on “The Illusion of Efficiency in a Fast Food Nation

  1. Thanks for this post! In my previous and next post I am also expanding on the evils of fast food particularly what is in the food. Your post does a great job of explaining the other negatives of fast food such as the potential degradation of food culture, rising obesity rates, the ethics of marketing to children, etc… I hope that everyone tries to eat less fast food, I personally am going to start to cook more and buy higher quality ingredients. It’s a struggle with all these time constraints so most college students should lessen not ban their intake of fast food. I too have a sensitive stomach and can feel the effects of fast food yet I still eat it… I guess it’s a love hate relationship between food made for profit and food made with love.

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