Monday, January 07, 2008

Its Dog Eat Dog, Rat Eat Rat

I will today speak, not about Barack Obama, but about McDonald's, and it's intent to take a leaf from the book of Starbucks, by installing expresso coffee bars in all its US restaurants, which will serve lattes, capuchinos, and the various other upmarket coffees, to its customers.

On learning this, I thought immediately about the very different images associated with downmarket proletarian McDonalds, compared with upmarket professional Starbucks. When you go to McDonald's, you want simply to buy a Big Mac, wolf it down quickly, and, to help it through your esophagus, slurp down some of that warm brown water which passes for coffee at McDonald's.

I realize that in describing McDonald's fare thus, I'm doing so from my memories of when I used quite regularly eat there, when, being much younger, so much younger than today, I gave nary a thought to things like clogged arteries. Then came that day when my doctor informed me my cholesterol level was unhealthily high, and that I'd better make certain lifestyle changes pronto, else I'd be meeting the Grim Reaper earlier than planned.

An ingredient of the aforementioned lifestyle changes was no more McDonald's. So I've refrained from visiting McDonald's for over two decades, excepting perhaps once or twice in moments of weakness, when I couldn't help noticing that salads were now on offer. But I never tried them because, well, the whole purpose of going to McDonald's is not to eat a salad, but to consume a Big Mac, and fries, plus the warm brown water to wash it all down. Going to McDonald's to eat a salad makes as much sense as going to a Chinese restaurant to eat spaghetti Bolognaise.

Being a very cutting-edge Baby Boomer, I belong to that huge demographic which, too, is becoming concerned about clogged arteries, and may consequently have eschewed McDonald's as they become older. Perhaps this is why McDonald's has lost some of its earlier lustre, and now seeks to regain lost ground by offering not only salads, but coffee at least barely potable.

But McDonald's embodies uniquely American values, reflecting that food should be eaten as quickly as possible because time spent eating is time spent not working - not desirable in a society which worships work as fervently as it does God. Ray Kroc, McDonald's founder, knew that Americans go out to eat, not dine, and wish to eat as efficiently and quickly as possible. So he gave Americans what they wanted - a spotlessly clean, simple, casual and identifiable restaurant with friendly service, low prices, no waiting and no reservations.

Before he developed McDonald's, Ray Kroc was an itinerant milkshake-mixer salesman, who travelled the length and breadth of America selling milkshake multimixers. His customers included two brothers, Dick and Mac McDonald who owned a restaurant in San Bernadino, California, which offered very limited fare - hamburgers, cheeseburgers, french-fries, soft-drinks, and milk-shakes. They were offered at very low prices because the restaurant was operated so efficiently, reflected in the simple limited menu, and by eight milkshake multimixers whirring away day and night, yielding a steady stream of cash.

When Ray Kroc saw this, his mind began whirring like the multimixers he sold. He saw how this restaurant could be multiplied into a chain of them, and he pitched his idea to the McDonald brothers, who asked him, "Who could we get to open them for us?", and Kroc replied, "What about me?" This was in 1954.

So the McDonald's restaurant chain was begun, and so successfully that in 1961, Kroc persuaded the McDonald brothers into selling him the entire business for $2.7 million. The rest, as is said, is history.

Today, McDonald's has restaurants in over 114 countries, with annual world-wide sales of more than $41 billion, making it a veritable Gulliver compared to its relatively Lilliputian competitors. McDonald's expects its launch into upmarket Starbuck-style coffee, to yield an extra $1 billion a year in sales - not much, next to $41 billion - but it pays to keep competitors, like Starbucks, nervous.

Ray Kroc is long now dead, having expired in 1984, but McDonald's lives on and keeps growing - as quintessentially American as George Bush, the World Series, Mom, apple pie............and cheeseburgers.

I’m going to San Bernardino ring-a-ding-ding
Milkshake mixers that’s my thing, now
These guys bought a heap of my stuff
And I gotta see a good thing sure enough, now
Or my name’s not Kroc, that’s Kroc with a ‘k’
Like ‘crocodile’, but not spelled that way, now
It’s dog eat dog, rat eat rat
Kroc-style, boom, like that

The folks line up all down the street
And I’m seeing this girl devour her meat, now
And then I get it, wham as clear as day
My pulse begins to hammer and I hear a voice say
These boys have got this down
Oughtta be a one of these in every town
These boys have got the touch
It’s clean as a whistle and it don’t cost much
Wham, bam, you don’t wait long
Shake, fries, patty, you’re gone
And how about that friendly name?
Heck, every little thing oughtta stay the same
Or my name’s not Kroc, that’s Kroc with a ‘k’
Like ‘crocodile’ but not spelt that way, now
It’s dog eat dog, rat eat rat
Oh, it's dog eat dog, rat eat rat
Kroc-style, boom, like that

You gentlemen ought to expand
You’re going to need a helping hand, now
So, gentlemen, well, what about me?
We’ll make a little business history, now
Or my name’s not Kroc, call me Ray
Like ‘crocodile’, but not spelt that way, now
It’s dog eat dog, rat eat rat
Kroc-style, boom, like that

Well we build it up and I buy ‘em out
But, man they made me grind it out, now
They open up a new place flipping meat
So I do, too right across the street
I got the name, I need the town
They sell up in the end, and it all shuts down
Sometimes you gotta be an s.o.b.
You wanna make a dream reality
Competition? send ‘em south
If they’re gonna drown put a hose in their mouth
Do not pass go straight to hell
I smell that meat hook smell
Or my name’s not Kroc, that’s Kroc with a ‘k’
Like ‘crocodile’, but not spelt that way, now
It’s dog eat dog, rat eat rat
Oh, it's dog eat dog, rat eat rat
Kroc-style, boom, like that