My kind of place

Friday, November 25, 2005
This report from the FT on travails at McDonalds took me back some thirty years when, as a schoolboy in London, I spent a summer vacation working at one of the first McDonalds restaurants to open in the UK.

Before Mickey D arrived, the typical solution to the average British shopper’s hunger pangs was a curly cheese sandwich, a bag of soggy chips or a largely indigestible meat-flavored bun called a ‘Wimpy burger.’ McDonalds’ popularity was instant and overwhelming.

With my job came a uniform and an introduction to a revolutionary work ethic. Where service at the local Wimpy Bar came with a sneer, at McDonald’s “the customer was King.” When burgers didn’t need flipping we were required to proactively seek out ways to ‘help’ our ‘customers.’ And any time when we were absolutely sure there were no customers needing help, we made sure that every table in the restaurant was clean for them, every ‘trash can’ empty for them and every square inch of the kitchen spotless and sanitary for them.

Most of my school vacation jobs have since served only as fodder for dinner conversations along the lines of ‘what was the worst job you ever had?’ My job at McDonalds by contrast provided me with some enduring lessons about what makes a market economy tick. It also began my lifelong love affair with America.

Mickey D’s critics may be right that attitudes have changed and so the restaurant should change with them. But I remain deeply suspicious of their claims that its jobs are “excessively pressurized.” To me, that sounds like they have in mind something that ends not with a burger but with a Wimpy.

10 comments:

Morgan said...

In my experience, the best places to work are where expectations are high, slacking is not tolerated, and friendliness is considered a good thing. There's an entirely pleasant sort of buzz in places like that.

David Thomson said...

It’s obvious that someone is unaware that MacDonald’s is a cultural imperialist business entity. What about the Muslims living in the UK? I bet that the restaurant chain even lets in women wearing short skirts and no veil over their faces. The sexual temptation is too great for the Islamic males to bear. I now understand why they blew up those bus riders and subway passengers. MacDonald’s is also secretly owned by Jews. The name was originally Macowitz.

Rick Ballard said...

Ah, memories. I worked for this guy's dad thirty-eight years ago at his second or third restaurant. Julian's experience in London is very familiar to me. The consistency in approach came from making graduation from Hamburger U. a prerequisite for all franchisees and most managers.

It was really a decent high school job in the '60's - minimum wage but all the burgers, fries and shakes that a teenage boy could put down. Besides, $1.47 perhour provided enough dough to pay for gas, insurance, beer and dates until summer when I could pick up construction work at the munificent sum of $3.82 per hour.

It really was a fun place to work, too.

sammy small said...

During my Air Force assignment at RAF Bentwaters, we often went to London never looking for a McDonalds, but instead the first and only Hard Rock Cafe. That was a mecca of Americana for the troops stationed in the UK. It was the only place in London to get a real American hamburger, and it there was always a queue to get in.

As Americans, we always asked to wait at the bar rather than stand in line. Our "bloke chick" dates thought we were given favored treatment not having to wait. We just told them that this was common for American establishments. What a great place it was too.

At the time, one of the few McDonalds we frequented was at the Frankfurt Airport. I remember the Viertelpfünder (Quarter-pounder) there with fond regard. Also the Uzi toting security guard right outside the door.

chuck said...

... a curly cheese sandwich...

What is a curly cheese sandwich and how is it related to a plain old cheese sandwich?

Julian Biggs said...

chuck - that would be a cheese sandwich created several days in the past using nutrition-and-fiber-free white bread which, having lost much of its moisture to the atmosphere, then tends as night follows day towards the curly.

Peter UK said...

Chuck,
This is a curly cheese sandwich,named after the famous Fourth Earl of Sandwich.
The true curly cheese sandwich is not quite the laissez faire concoction as Julian would have you believe.
British Rail had its own Inspectorate of Sandwiches,who would arrive unannouced at lonely train stations armed with a curlometer and a regulation biteometer.Woe betide any catering manager not achieving official standards of curlyness.
The Curly Cheese Sandwich is what made us what we are today,oiled the wheels of war and was used by the Home Guard as an antipersonel device.

Syl said...

This whole thread made me smile! Thank you all!

Julian Biggs said...

peter - cheese sandwich eating non-surrender monkeys: http://www.bbc.co.uk/bbc7/comedy/progpages/dadsarmy.shtml
;-)

Julian Biggs said...

better link: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dad's_Army