Friday, April 28, 2006

UK McDonald’s in crisis

McDonalds outlet in UK

The Sunday Times of 23th April 2006 reports about McDonald’s being in crisis in Britain.
“McDonald’s faces a tough battle in the UK, having to fight declining sales, an increasingly vociferous anti-obesity lobby and intense competition” writes the London newspaper.

From our viewpoint as animal activists campaigning to spread vegetarianism, it teaches us 2 lessons in strategy:

1) Publicity campaigns carried out in major media do produce massive results. McDonald’s in the UK has been hit by all the furore surrounding the ‘health fad’, as The Sunday Times puts it, promoted in recent months by various high-profile forms of advertising. Examples of these are celebrity chefs criticizing current school meals and launching healthier alternatives to them, and the bombardment to which British TV viewers have been submitted over the Christmas holiday period with program after program highlighting the health risks of fat-rich diets, condemning a long list of foods and drinks for contributing to diseases, showing shocking or disgusting pictures of abnormally obese people (and of their body products too), and so on.
In fact, McDonald’s has not been the only commercial victim of this: fizzy, sugary drinks’ sales have been affected too.
True, McDonald’s has seen its popularity decline over a period of time for other adverse publicity reasons, but nothing has hit them as much as the recent ‘health fad’.

2) There is probably a market for a vegetarian fast food restaurants chain, a vegetarian McDonald’s. If somebody invested money, time and effort in it, it would likely be a succes. I think of it as a number of diners, American-style, sort of 50s, with juke-boxes. They should also have internet points, magazines, videos; they should become a place in which young people meet, not just to have a meal but also for social purposes, to find old friends and to make new ones. They should be aimed at youngsters, perhaps teenagers, and be perceived by them as cool and hip places.

Why? Because this is the group we want to target. Young people are already more vegetarian, on average, than the rest of the population. We want to encourage that, because they are obviously the future. Youngsters like fast food joints: there’s nothing wrong with that, per se. Our aim is to create an association in their minds between vegetarianism and places which are fun and cool, places where their friends choose to hang around, places which have nothing to do with the past but are evocative of the future, new and fresh.

This is the sort of ‘campaigning’ on which I believe we should focus more: not just on the negative, but on the positive too, and not just using reason and logic or even appeals to compassion, but also taking into consideration and acting on people’s needs, desires and psychological make-up.


veggiegator said...

I just found your blog and thought I'd say hello. Its great to read that the UK has anti-obesity pressures! I've been vegetarian for 9 years and its not easy in America, with all the obese children and adults supporting the the fat fast-food places. We DO need a vegetarian chain restaurant... the only thing is, those of us who are vegetarian know that good food doesn't come fast. So it would be a slow-food chain, not fast food.

Of Human and Non-Human Animals said...

Thank you for your comment, veggiegator, and hello to you.

Yes, I know very well that already established vegetarians do not particularly like fast food.

But, as I explained in my post, this vegetarian fast food chain would be aimed predominantly at people who are not vegetarian, or not yet.

There is little point in preaching to the converted.

Our aim is to try to reach non-vegetarians and make vegetarian food popular among them, by appealing to their taste, not ours.

I don't think that it's impossible to have good fast food, not at all.

The funny thing is that I am from Italy, the country which has created the 'Slow Food' movement.
And I'm here arguing in favour of fast food with an American.

The irony of life...

Your comment is welcome, anyway, because you raise a point which I had already considered myself and about which many people in the movement would probably be concerned.