Whether you love it or hate it, there’s no denying the success of McDonald’s. 74 years after the fast-food company first started serving customers in California, McDonald’s now has over 34,000 restaurants operating in 119 countries around the world. Worth almost $40 billion, it is the sixth most valuable brand in the world. Over the years, the chain has been criticised for contributing to the obesity epidemic, damaging the environment, exploiting child labour, failing to pay fair wages to its employees, targeting children in its advertising campaigns and indirectly causing animal cruelty. Documentaries like “Super Size Me” and books such as “Fast Food Nation” have exposed the negative side of the company. For many, the chain has come to represent globalisation, homogenisation and capitalist greed. So why are millions of people still eating at McDonald’s every day?
For one, McDonald’s have extremely well-funded advertising and marketing teams, who work tirelessly to promote a positive brand image. The company has mastered “glocalisation”, adding a local flavour to the restaurants in each country they colonise. It is almost unanimously adored by children, who nag their parents to bring them to eat there. Many of its branches have been redecorated and given a more sophisticated look, attracting customers from a higher income bracket – there’s even a McCafe on the Champs Elysees in Paris! Its menus have been expanded to contain healthier choices, assuaging obesity fears. It has started serving hot drinks and café food in order to compete with coffee shops like Starbucks, to attract a new demographic. The service is rapid, providing a quick fix for hungry, busy, and lazy people alike. But perhaps most of all, it is cheap, with many items costing just a dollar. No matter how opposed you are to McDonald’s, on moral, nutritional, environmental or any other grounds, sometimes it’s hard to say no.
The brand is so prevalent in our daily lives, but how much do we really know about it? You may be shocked by these 10 true facts about McD’s…
10. 1 in 8 American workers has been employed by McDonald’s.
According to “Fast Food Nation: The Dark Side of the All-American Meal”, written by investigative journalist Eric Schlosser and published in 2001, approximately one out of every eight American workers has been employed by McDonald’s at some point. The chain hires around one million people per year, which is more than any other organisation in the United States. Though some of these workers manage to move up the corporate ladder, the majority receive low wages and few benefits, learn no new skills, and tend to quit their “McJobs” after just a few months.
9. The Golden Arches of McDonald’s are More Widely Recognised than the Christian Cross.
McDonald’s spends more money on advertising and marketing than any other brand in the world. Last year, it had an advertising budget of $2 billion, which was higher than the four other most popular fast food chains in America combined. Its campaigns are so pervasive that McDonald’s has become of the best-known brands in the world. A survey conducted by Sponsorship Research International found the 88 percent of participants could identify its Golden Arches, while only 54 percent recognised the cross. Similarly, a survey of schoolchildren in the United States found that 96 percent were able to name Ronald McDonald: more than any other fictional character excluding Santa Claus.
8. McDonald’s is the world’s largest toy distributor.
McDonald’s distributes over 1.5 billion toys every year, even more than Toys R Us and Walmart. It is also the largest private provider of playgrounds in the United States. Many see these elements as part of the company’s effort to target children and instil brand loyalty in us from a young age. Research has found that 40% of children aged 2 to 11 ask their parents to bring them to McDonald’s at least once a week, and 15% of students beg to be taken there every single day. Since one in every five sales at Mickey D’s is a Happy Meal, it seems parents are giving in.
7. McDonald’s sells more than 75 hamburgers every second.
McDonald’s feeds 68 million people every day – that’s 1% of the world’s population. A new restaurant opens every 14.5 hours, in locations as diverse as Vietnam and Saudi Arabia. It seem that no matter how much bad publicity it gets, or how unhealthy its menu, people still can’t get enough of the Big Macs.
6. McDonald’s Employees Can Earn a Degree in Hamburgerology.
Hamburger University is located in the suburbs of Chicago, Illinois. It was set up in 1961 as a training facility for restaurant managers and owners. Since then, over 80,000 students have graced its halls, and 22 other centres have been set up across the world. The institute employs 19 full-time instructors, who have the ability to teach in 28 different languages. It even offers college credit to its pupils. As the McDonald’s advertisements put it – “would you like a career with that?”
5. Their Caesar Salad Contains More Calories than their Cheeseburger.
Between various lawsuits, documentaries, and exposés, McDonald’s have attracted a lot of criticism over the questionable health of their food. In recent years, they have attempted to introduce more healthy options to their menu, including sliced fruit, bottled water, yoghurts and salads. However, for customers looking to lose weight, the salad isn’t an advisable choice: the chicken Caesar amounts to 425 calories with dressing and croutons, much more than a 300-calorie cheeseburger. With all of the fat and none of the guilty pleasure, it’s not surprising that salads make up only 2-3% of the restaurant chain’s sales.
4. The Queen of England owns a McDonald’s.
In 2008, Queen Elizabeth II purchased a retail park in Slough, England for £92 million. The site, which can be seen from her rooms in Windsor Castle, contains a drive-thru McDonald’s as well as branches of B&Q superstore and Mothercare. We’d have thought she would prefer Burger King…
3. McDonald’s is richer than Mongolia.
McDonald’s is one of the most profitable companies in the world, taking in around 27 billion per year – that’s $75 million per day. It earns $8.7 billion from its franchise stores alone, making it the 90th-largest economy in the world.
2. Americans consume one billion pounds of beef at McDonald’s every year.
McDonald’s is the largest purchaser of beef, pork, tomatoes, lettuce potatoes and apples in the United States. Americans alone consume five and a half million head of cattle at the restaurants annually. The company has come under fire for its continual promotion of meat products, which are wasteful of energy and water and an extremely inefficient source of food: 7 million tons of grain fed to cattle produces only 1 million tons of meat. It has also been condemned for its contribution to the deforestation of the Amazon and methane emissions, as well as its heavy use of chemicals. The chain has made conspicuous efforts to become more ethical and environmentally friendly, however, reducing the amount of packaging it uses, promoting recycling and only buying coffee from sources certified by the Rainforest Alliance.
1. It takes the average McDonald’s worker seven months to earn what its CEO makes in one hour.
Last year, finance website Nerd Wallet decide to calculate what the employees of various retail and fast-food chains earned in comparison to their CEOs. They worked out that while the typical McDonald’s worker earns just above minimum wage at $7.73 an hour, the CEO rakes in 1,196 times more than that – a staggering $9,247 an hour. This means that, excluding overtime and holidays, it would take a typical employee seven months to make what the boss makes in just sixty minutes. It seems the 90th biggest economy in the world suffers the same income inequality as most prosperous nations.
Between 2007 and 2001, fast food workers in America required $7 billion in public assistance in order to get by. Last year, McDonald’s was forced to close down its McResource website amidst a storm of negative publicity. It seems its workers didn’t appreciate being told to get a second job, apply for food stamps, seek refunds for unopened Christmas presents and “quit complaining”. What a bleak McWorld we live in…