Mcdonaldization Essay, Research Paper
McDonaldization” — as used by George Ritzer, author of The McDonaldization of Society — refers to the creation of “rationalized systems” to perform everyday functions such as food preparation, retail sales, banking, home construction, entertainment, news delivery and so on. He calls it McDonaldization because such methods were used to famous effect by Ray Kroc, who built McDonald’s into a fast-food empire — and because in many people’s minds McDonald’s represents the results, both good and bad, that occur when rationalized systems take over. But has this transition affected other businesses either positively or negatively? Why sure, thanks for asking! I think the best way to examine McDonaldization is to compare the analysis of McDonalds to its effects in the same industry. The way I plan to do this is to see if the effects of McDonaldization have effect the Wendy s franchise. The information that I know about this business comes from my brother working for this company for many years and partaking in a triple-cheeseburger or two in my short college career.
The way that Wendy’s Old Fashioned Hamburgers does business and markets it’s product to consumers is due to the change in our society to where the consumer wants the biggest, fastest, and best product they can get for their money. This change in society can be attributed to a process known as McDonaldization. Although McDonaldization can be applied to many other parts of our society, this paper will focus on its impact on Wendy’s Old Fashioned Hamburgers. My belief is that the process of McDonaldization, where the ideology of McDonald’s has come to dominate the world, has caused Wendy’s Old Fashioned Hamburgers to emulate McDonald’s style of running a franchised restaurant chain in terms of efficiency, calculability, and control. However, since McDonald’s has become the embodiment of “fast-food” in our society, Wendy’s Old Fashioned Hamburgers has had to change their focus to giving the consumer a higher quality product in a relatively fast amount of time. So, Wendy’s still caters to a McDonaldized society in terms of giving them a meal as fast as possible but making quality their number one priority to give people a viable option from McDonald’s.
In addition, as mentioned before, I have used my brother who managed to keep a job at Wendy’s for a short period and observations I gathered while at McDonald’s as further information for this paper. First, before I discuss the impact of McDonaldization on Wendy’s Old Fashioned Hamburgers, I will define what McDonaldization is. McDonaldization is the process by which the principles of fast-food restaurants are coming to dominate more and more sectors of American society, as well as, of the rest of the world. George Ritzer created this concept of McDonaldization as a continuation of Max Weber’s theories on bureaucracies (I hope). Max Weber defines a bureaucracy as a large hierarchical organization that is governed by formal rules and regulations and has a clear specification of work tasks. Its three main characteristics are that it has a division of labor, hierarchy of authority, and an impartial and impersonal application of rules and policies (see what I got from Sociological Theory). Thus, from that definition of a bureaucracy, one would conclude that both McDonald’s and Wendy’s Old Fashioned Hamburgers are bureaucracies.
The fact that both restaurants are bureaucracies is supported by the fact that each assigns workers to a specific job where each worker individually contributes to the overall success of the restaurant by doing his or her job. For example, workers at each restaurant could be assigned to working the grill, making fries, working the front register, or taking orders at the drive-thru window. Both restaurants have a hierarchy of authority from worker, crew chief, shift manager, salary manager to owner of the store. Also, each restaurant enforces an impartial and impersonal application of rules and policies. Both McDonald’s and Wendy’s have standard, impersonal greetings at the register and at the drive-thru window. The exception when this impersonal attitude towards the customer is changed is when a worker knows the customer outside the restaurant. In this case, the worker will probably ask their acquaintance how they are doing or what they are up to.
The worker might even throw in an extra cheeseburger that a regular customer might not get. Despite this exception where standardization is broken, both these restaurants have become bureaucracies because they are the most efficient means of managing large groups of people. That leaves one to wonder why the process of McDonaldization has been so successful for both companies. The first reason is that it offers efficiency where consumers know that it means the quickest way to get from one point to another. In the case of McDonald’s, it offers the best available way to get from being hungry to being full. This is so important in today’s society because so many people are in a rush to get from one place to another. Therefore, the quick, efficient setup of McDonald’s allows consumers to eat a fast-food meal without having to leave their car. On the other hand, Wendy’s strives for as efficient service as possible without affecting the quality of their product. This is because McDonald’s already has imprinted on people’s minds throughout the many years of its existence that they will get the same burger each visit in the quickest amount of time.
They reinforce this idea on the minds of consumers through advertising and other clever tools. For example, on every McDonald’s sign is a tally of how many people in the world have eaten there, which is currently at 99 billion served. The use of this sign reinforces to people that McDonald’s is an icon in our society and many people will equate that large number with McDonald’s being the best restaurant. As a result, Wendy’s has tried to make quality their number one priority but with no serious deficiencies in the speed of their product. This can be attributed to the fact that they do not pre-make their burgers and leave them under heat lamps to sit like McDonald’s does. Instead, they have their staff assembled to make the burger as the customer orders it. This is an especially important benefit because many people like to “customize” their burger and the process that Wendy’s uses allow them to do that.
This allows them to target another group of society, which McDonald’s product doesn’t appeal to. For example, older people who would rather sit down and have a quality meal would most likely rather go to Wendy’s Old Fashioned Hamburgers. Even, the name of Wendy’s Old Fashioned Hamburgers suggests that their style is more like how things used to be done many decades ago in terms of making quality the number one priority for a restaurant. Therefore, they would provide an alternative for people who were not interested in getting a burger that has been slopped together and sitting under a heat lamp for an hour. This would be reflected in which demographic of people each restaurant targeted. McDonald’s traditionally has targeted families as their key demographic but recently they have shifted to make their product more appealing to teenagers as well. This can best be demonstrated in their new style commercials that use many young adults and refers to McDonald’s as “Mickey D’s” as a hip place to hang out. So, for young people who are in a rush to get from place to place, McDonald’s provides a fast, cheap meal that they can eat on the run.
On the other hand, Wendy’s Old Fashioned Hamburgers targets people who aren’t in such a rush and would rather sit down and eat a slow, relaxing meal (is this ageism). They still cater to those who are in a rush by offering a drive-thru. However, they know that most of their business will come from people looking for a quality alternative to McDonald’s. Another aspect of McDonaldization that has made both companies successful is calculability. This is where each restaurant puts an emphasis on quantitative aspects of products sold like portion size and cost. For example, McDonald’s has burgers like the “Quarter Pounder” and “Big Mac” while Wendy’s Old Fashioned Hamburger has burgers like the “Double Bacon Cheeseburger”. This use of descriptive adjectives suggests to the consumer that they are getting the most amount of food for their money. Both McDonald’s and Wendy’s have the option to “Supersize” or “Biggiesize” an order. This makes the companies successful in our society because of our belief that bigger is better.
Finally, both companies use control, especially through the substitution of non-human for human technology. For both companies that means using soft drink machines that automatically shuts off when the glass is full, french-fry machines that rings and lifts itself out of the oil when the fries are done, and the preprogrammed cash registers that eliminate the need for the cashier to calculate any prices. The main reason that this is done is because,” [people are] The great source of uncertainty, unpredictability and inefficiency in any rationalizing system.” Thus, by increasing control, through increased mechanization, both companies maintain a better control over the entire organization. Also, this leads to employees not having to think about their job because the tasks they are asked to do are very repetitive. In conclusion, it is obvious that both restaurants have adopted a style of running their restaurants that makes them successful.
McDonald’s style is to give the public the same burger that they have always had so that they can come to depend that they will get the same meal as they did last time. They have been a pioneer in the fast-food industry and the model that other restaurants try to imitate. On the other hand, Wendy’s style is to make a quality product that reminds people of the “good old days”. They have been directly influenced by McDonald’s in terms of how to run their fast-food restaurant to maximize speed and efficiency. However, since Wendy’s Old Fashioned Hamburgers would not have a chance of competing with McDonald’s at their own game, they have developed their own niche in the market of making a quality product efficiently. What concerns me is the way these companies are phasing out the roles of their employees to the point where they are doing nothing but mindless, repetitive tasks. To me, the consequence of this will be that someday all human workers will be replaced because it is more efficient for machines to do the work. So, although McDonaldization has made both these companies very successful, there is a very serious potential downside that could have an effect on everyone.
Now there is no doubt that this text can be read on a number of different levels, some of which are far more satisfactory than others. Ritzer is clearly an accessible and engaging writer. For an undergraduate audience, which is unfamiliar with the language, and indeed, critical project of radical social theory, this text provides a worthy, and indeed somewhat enjoyable introduction. Keep in mind, though, that those four principles are not necessarily pursued from the point of view of the consumer. Efficiency, for example, may entail the placing of great inconveniences upon a consumer for the sake of efficient management. Calculability may involve hiding certain information from the consumer. Predictability and control may involve a company’s ability to predict and control consumer behavior, not the consumer’s ability to predict what kind of product or control what kind of service he gets. Ritzer calls such breakdowns “the irrationality of rationalization.”
Even so, there is a great perception among American consumers in particular that McDonaldized systems succeed from their own point of view based on those criteria: the systems are perceived to be more efficient, the benefits calculable, the goods and services predictable. But it’s rare that the consumer will ever feel himself to be more in control. McDonaldized systems take away a great deal of consumer autonomy (which I love), making decisions and implementing processes on a mass-market scale with little room for individual involvement on the part of a single customer or even a single store or plant manager. The benefit of control is one that accrues exclusively to the company. Regardless of who benefits or to what extent, the universal result is homogenization.
Rationalized systems have a pronounced tendency to squash-individual tastes, niche markets, small-scale enterprise and personalized customer service. Differences are leveled, wrinkles smoothed, knots cut off — convenience at the expense of character. An overwhelming normlessness develops, along with a decrease in responsiveness among the people of our society that are involved. The system that seeks to mimic a machine becomes a machine, incapable of making exceptions or taking risks. McDonaldization is taking over our society. In the future, our wishes of fast, more efficient services will be fulfilled; but whom in the world will we ever talk too?