Friday, January 4, 2008

The Sociology of Fast Food: Wendy's

I know that eating fast food too often harms your health, but I often wonder if there are other aspects of eating out that harm you. Does it cause you to spend less time with friends and family? Does it keep you so time-oriented that you never slow down to appreciate life? Visiting a nearby Wendy’s fast food restaurant, Rachel Steiner and I knew that what we were about to eat was unhealthy. We knew that if children get used to eating out every day, they will likely eat out every day when they grow older.

We wanted to observe the types of people who go to fast food restaurants and how customers and employees interacted. There was only one problem: There were only two people inside. Several people came to the Wendy’s but went through the drive-through instead of coming inside to eat. I’ve been in a hurry before and used the drive-through to get food, but sometimes I think I was just too lazy to go inside. It was cold out the day we went. I wondered if people were using the drive-through because they didn’t want to get out in the cold weather to go inside.

I wasn’t very hungry, so I only ordered a medium French fry and asked for a cup of water. The cashier stared at me in disbelief and asked, “That’s all?”

“They must get a lot of overeaters here,” I thought to myself, “or maybe he wonders why I bothered to come inside for such a small order.”

“That’s all,” I answered.

The cashier hadn’t been kind to me. He had asked what I wanted and charged me. He seemed task-oriented instead of customer-oriented. There were no women working there at the time.Taking our food, Rachel and I sat down near two girls, the only other customers in the restaurant. They were not talking. They sat, eating their food in silence. It reminded me of the many times I’ve eaten out with my mother. We go out for dinner often to places like Wendy’s and Olive Garden. We often go because we don’t feel like cooking our own meal, not because we want to spend time together. We order our meal, read a book while we wait for our food, and eat when our food comes.

My mother did teach me one thing about eating out: Always treat your servers with loving care. Her mother worked as a waitress. Because of this, my mother gained an appreciation for what workers at restaurants do. She has passed this appreciation on to me. With little to observe at Wendy’s, Rachel and I began to talk about good service and tipping. I decided that no matter how badly an employee may serve me, I can never know their reason and should always leave a tip with a good attitude. Unfortunately, fast food restaurants don’t allow you to tip.

Upbeat, contemporary music played. The chairs were stiff and the tables were sticky. I did not feel comfortable or relaxed. Rachel and I waited for thirty minutes before leaving, but no one else came in and the cashiers didn’t talk amongst themselves. All had been quiet.


Annie said...

Hello to you, you field anthropologist, you. It's interesting to read of your experience there. I'm left with the understanding that this particular Wendy's dining experience was less than successful.

Max-e said...

Intersting post.
Fast foods - love em or hate em.
I loved em and lived on them until I had a heart attack and a bypass operation.
Now the stuff does not pass my lips. KFC's profit margins are dropping as a result.
I guess the idea of these places iis to get as many people through in the shortest time possible, as its all about money.