Roy Bergold: Tales from McDonald’s | August 2011 | By Roy T. Bergold Jr.

When Fast Food Regulations Go Too Far

Could the American economy thrive without quick serves in the mix? Well, no.

Ray Kroc believed in an American work ethic when he helped grow McDonald's.
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The alarm goes off, the sun is just peeking over the horizon, and you leap out of bed to face another lousy day in paradise. After you wash up for the day ahead, you tear open the closet door to find your manager’s uniform is gone. You know you brought it home from the cleaners and hung it there. Where is it? You look over at the nightstand, and your store keys are gone. What the heck is going on?  

Well buddy, you have just started a day without quick serves. We are going to take a look at what it would be like if the industry had never started. This is a day made for all of those opponents of the industry.  

To be fair, let’s first talk about the advantages of having no quick serves. I have scanned the literature from the consumer groups that would like to see health stores and health clubs where there are now fast food restaurants, and this is what they have to say.  

There would be a drastic decrease in obesity, and no fat kids. This is because there would, of course, be fewer bad places to eat at, so there would be more at-home dining with controlled ingredients and cooking styles. People would have more money in their pockets, because they wouldn’t be spending it on fast food. The family dinner would once again be popular; people would sit down at home and eat, not at a plastic table.

Litter would be a fraction of what it is. More trees would be standing, filling the air with oxygen, because less packaging would be needed. There would be significantly less food waste. Gasoline usage would go way down, if only from the savings of not sitting in the drive-thru line. And one for the astronomers out there: There would be less light pollution from those garish neon signs.

Teens would have many fewer hangouts, although I do wonder where they would go. The world wouldn’t smell like a french fry or a charcoal grill. And energy usage would be cut drastically.

You walk outside into the world on this hypothetical day, and what do you see? Lots of people without jobs. The restaurant industry is primarily white tablecloth and diner-type greasy spoons. Convenience has all but disappeared. Food value has eroded. The choices are bad food or highly priced food. There is very little menu choice. All those great ethnic quick serves don’t exist.

“Ray Kroc and Dave Thomas were men who sincerely believed in the American work ethic, and the same goes for today's quick-serve owner.”

There is no industry willing to give back to the community. All those baseball uniforms have no sponsor on the back. Teens are not being trained in simple work ethics and responsibilities—jobs are very hard to come by, not to mention all of those construction jobs to build quick serves don’t exist.  

There is nowhere to take a break inexpensively or get food at a value any time. It takes a long time to get the food, which means little Clyde won’t get his Dressage lesson today. Farmland has not gone to seed because so much less is being grown for the restaurant industry. There is far less nutrition research because no one cares. Our local governments have much less property and sales tax revenue, so the mayor doesn’t get that new office rehab.  

People are going farther to find a restaurant they haven’t been to, and local businesses are losing revenue. There is no local place for everyone to go, gather, and talk. It’s becoming harder to find a local place to have service club meetings. Restaurants aren’t fun for kids—they get yelled at for spilling. And kids don’t get to try new foods because there is nowhere to go to try them. Don’t ask dad to make enchiladas.  

Seniors who want to work have far fewer opportunities to do so, and they don’t feel challenged. Government has a lot less interest in food, making food safety more of a problem. Food safety techniques have not been developed. And media does not have the fast food dollar in the profit till.  

When people do go to a restaurant, there is a huge question of consistency. They don’t know what they are going to get. All of those manufacturing jobs to make the equipment for quick serves don’t exist. Portion control is out the window as larger and larger pots of spaghetti hit the stoves of our homes.  

There is a significant lessening of small-business opportunity. The whole idea of franchising just never took off without the business model of the quick serve.  People who wanted to work for themselves just couldn’t do it, and found themselves shelved into jobs dreaming about their own business, but with no way to make it happen.

There is nowhere to go if you want a table for one. There is no safe, clean, and comfortable environment for the single diner who is tired of canned ravioli.  

There are no fun mascots. No Ronald to play with, no Burger King to laugh at, no Jack to wonder how he can walk with that head. And without Ronald, no Ronald McDonald Houses.  

Most importantly, there are no Happy Meal toys, which significantly affects the Chinese economy. Now what will San Francisco do for fun? They might have to fix the streets.  

OK, you can open your eyes again. What I have just described is not real, but might have been without men like Ray Kroc and Dave Thomas. They were men who sincerely believed in the American work ethic and the possibility of success when you have a good idea. And the same goes for today’s quick-serve owner. Sure, we’re all here for a profit, but there is a lot of good old-fashioned fun that goes into it. We love to see smiles on our customers’ faces and know that we have provided a positive experience for them.  

I think the positives of the industry far outweigh the negatives. So carry on. That uniform is back in the closet and the keys are back on the ring. Go have fun in your restaurant. I’ll see you for lunch.  

Happy Trails and a most Peaceful and Contented Life.

Roy Bergold

Roy started his career at the Leo Burnett Company in 1967. Two years later he decided to sell hamburgers instead, and began his adventure at McDonald’s. Starting as an assistant advertising manager, he became manager, national advertising manager, director of advertising and promotion, assistant vice president of advertising and promotion, and vice president of advertising.

Roy retired from McDonald’s in 2001 as Chief Creative Officer. Along the way, he was responsible for U.S., as well as all advertising worldwide. While under his care, McDonald’s earned every creative award possible, including Cannes, Clios, and the Four A’s best five year campaign. Roy lives happily in Payson, Arizona, with his wife, dogs, and horses.