The Fast Food Industry
The last 50 years or so have been turbulent ones for America. Millions of “Rosies” may have quit riveting but they did not quit working, and the Civil Rights Movement resulted in fundamental changes in American society that have leveled the playing field for most workers today. A costly police action was fought in Korea that is still smoldering today, and the last vestiges of the Vietnam War were finally played out in the most recent presidential election. During the last 50 years or so, America succeeded in landing a man on the moon and safely returning him to the Earth, and winning a costly Cold War. During this turbulent period in U.S. history, life has ...view middle of the document...
According to Zanello (2005), “Many of us can’t imagine our lives today without the convenience of fast food . . . fast food has touched and changed all of our lives in some way or another. And to think it all started back in 1936” (p. 1).
The event that is credited with establishing a multi-billion dollar industry today was both a humble and tragic one, and involved the vehicular death of one Hank McDonald who was killed in his truck on his way to work one day. McDonald’s fiancée, Maria del Gray, used the settlement money from McDonald’s death to “start her own restaurant, naming it after the man she had loved, the Burger King himself, Hank McDonald” (Zanello, p. 2). As history has shown, the concept was enormously popular and others quickly adopted the business model with only variations in names, restaurant themes and individual recipes.
Social Effects. Social shifts in America have been played out in the fast food industry just like the larger society, but with some surprising twists. Much like other low-wage, low-skilled interactive service jobs, fast food employment is still largely regarded as being “women's work”; however, this has not always been the case. According to Talwar, “The fast food industry in the 1950s and 1960s was dominated by men” (p. 90). In his autobiography, the founder of the McDonald’s franchise system, Ray Kroc, described employees of the very first McDonald's as being “all men, dressed in spiffy white shirts and trousers and white paper hats” (in Talwar, p. 90). According to John Love’s comprehensive study of the McDonald's Corporation in the 1980s, the key to the industry at that time (before 1960) was the “all male crew”; further, Kroc initially decided not to hire young women to work behind the McDonald's counter because, he claimed, “They attracted the wrong kind of boys” (in Talwar, p. 90). Since the 1970s, more and more women have been employed in the fast food industry with their numbers largely increasing to parallel the adoption of more advanced technology the subsequent emphasis on service and the social and monetary devaluation of fast food jobs. In fact, since the early 1970s, the buying power of minimum wage (the wage for entry-level fast food jobs) has dropped by almost 50 percent (Talwar, 2002).
Today, some workers are able to work their way into the lower managerial ranks of the fast food industry where wages are marginally better; some are even promoted into higher management, a career path that has been made facilitated by long-standing internal promotion programs. According to Newman, though, “As in any industry, senior management opportunities [in fast food] are limited. Hence, most workers, even those with track records as reliable employees, are locked inside a low-wage environment” (p. 24).
Structural Changes in the Fast Food Industry. Today, the fast food industry has evolved in a number of important ways from the early days of Maria del Gray’s McDonalds. The fast...