Lunch Literature Book Club #fastfoodlover

My husband has been working late this week. So yesterday I took my son to Noodles and Co for a “date.” We ordered their Pad Thai.

Fast food tally for this week: 1

Some of you were upset that Starbucks was included in the list of fast food restaurants since many of you visit only for coffee. My new friend who told me about “fast food lovers” clarified how restaurant industry insiders categorize food:

QSR or Quick Service Restaraunt. This is fast food. McDonald’s, Wendy’s, Burger King, Taco Bell, Subway. They don’t want to call it fast food because of the stigma, so they refer to it as QSR. It has a low price point.

Fast Casual. This is a step up from fast food. More expensive and slightly better quality food but no table service. Chipotle is the gold standard.

Casual Dining. This includes the big chain restaurants, but could also be smaller local restaurants that don’t have the price point that you would get with the top category of Fine Dining. Chili’s. TGIFridays, Chevy’s, are examples. Sit down places with a lower price point. Family dining (like Buca de Beppo) is a variant of this.

Fine Dining. This has a higher price point, better service and atmosphere.

My new friend has agreed to write up guest post to appear this summer. In the meantime, the book…

Since I’m a newbie to running a book club, I turned to for my first two questions:

1. Schlosser discusses the eagerness of fast food companies to avoid hiring skilled workers and to rely instead upon highly unskilled workers. In fact, some chains openly embrace “zero training” as their ultimate goal. Since these companies are providing a steady paycheck, is it really the obligation of fast food chains to take an interest in their workers and to teach them job skills? Also, since many of the workers are recently arrived immigrants, doesn’t employment at fast food restaurants offer them a toehold in the American economy and an opportunity to move onto a better job?

Many of my students’ parents work in the fast food industry. One example was from my first year of teaching when a student’s mom worked a fast food job, was illiterate and spoke no English. I didn’t know her immigration status, but I think that she was supporting the whole family with her paycheck. I wish her employer had considered helping her learn how to read and write as well as how to speak English. It would have been a great help to her kids. When parents are illiterate and/or speak another language, they can’t help their kids with their homework, which is a significant handicap. With each passing year, homework gets more challenging and many projects are meant to done at home with parental assistance.

2. Over the last several decades, fast food companies have aggressively targeted children in their marketing efforts. Should advertisers be permitted to target children who lack the sophistication to make informed decisions and are essentially being lured into eating high fat, high calorie food through toys and cute corporate mascots? Is it possible that fast food companies – like tobacco companies – are recruiting increasingly younger consumers in order to insure a steady customer base as their older constituents die from heart disease, diabetes, and other obesity-related disorders?

Recently the government issued voluntary guidelines meant to limit the marketing of food to children. Voluntary? Is that a joke? How great would it be if we could walk into a grocery store and all the packaged food was in plain white or brown cardboard boxes with black letters set in simple block font. No frills. Just plain words. The produce would be the most colorful thing in the store! Fruit and veggie sales would skyrocket!

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14 thoughts on “Lunch Literature Book Club #fastfoodlover

  1. 1. My first job ever was at a Dairy Queen and I can say the "zero training" thing is true in my case. I was barely interviewed, I don't believe I was even drug tested and within a couple days I was on the schedule. Noone ever showed me how to use the machines; instead they were just pointed out to me. I have heard other fast food restaurants do more training with meetings and even quarterly videos on customer service and "speaking politely" among other things.

    The issue I find is that in other industries (like telecommunications), this is still going on – where certain groups of employees are segregated to perform different functions needed for a total completion of one goal or task. Cheap & "dumb" employees. I think any company that does this doesn't have an interest in promoting from within the company. And when an employee leaves their job, they may not have the right skills to be considered somewhere else. So what have they worked towards if they aren't attending college or any other type of training?

    2. As you described this "black & white" grocery store I pictured it. And it's so true that the produce section would quickly become the most popular. Sadly I don't see anything like this ever happening. I do believe there has been SOME progress in Nutritional Information being placed more prominently (or at all) on some packaging.

    One thing I always wished was part of physical education, was for students to be educated on how to read nutritional information labels. This is lightly touched on in some high school cooking classes and maybe P.E., but it should be from early on. As early as a child can read, they should be taught things like this. Isn't that what reading is for anyway? To educate ourselves on what is going on around us?

    For a nation such as ours to have [basically] the highest literacy percentage for our population, it really is sad that we aren't taught to do it for the important things. And yes, most of this responsibility should be to the parent, but if that parent has never learned how else is the cycle of bad eating/exercising habits going to be broken?

  2. The plain black and white packaging is something that's being discussed in the UK in reference to tobacco – in fact it may be becoming law, I don't remember. I think it's a good idea but I can't see it happening with food any time soon; the advertising industry would just collapse and big companies would be furious. It is possible to make fruit and vegetables more attractive than they are, though: when I lived in France I loved going to the local supermarket where the fresh produce was displayed beautifully. I even took photos!

  3. Off topic for the book club, but I found it ironic that people were defending Starbucks. You are supporting a chain, if you are getting anyting other than black coffee you are basically ingesting junk food, and it is a totally uncessary choice. So we are all whole food, local food supporters, except for Starbucks? It's pretty easy to make coffee at home. The whole conversation just seemed like people slamming fast food, except for their personal choices. Eg, Panera, Chiptole, greasy spoon diner.

  4. "I wish her employer had considered helping her learn how to read and write as well as how to speak English. It would have been a great help to her kids."

    Please just stop talking. Employers pay you to do a job, not to hold your hand and hold ESL classes. If they theoretically did that, I'm sure you and your whiners-I mean readers, would complain that such costs were being pased on to you, the consumer. The problem with you idiotic liberals is that you want everything for everyone else but don't want to pay for it.
    I'm sure your employer pays you to teach instead of being a pretentious, snotty, out of touch fame whore blogger.

    You and your sycophant readers seriously need to get off the bullshit, leave the suburban compounds and McMansions and actually see how other people live and work.

    Jesus, it's whiny liberals such as yourselves that have ruined the integrity of this country. Too much socialism and too little personal responsibility.

  5. To "Fed Up with Fed Up With School Lunch:"

    I actually agree with your assertion that it is not an employer's responsibility to teach an employee English, how to read, etc. HOWEVER, your position would be taken much more seriously if you toned down the anger, name calling and over generalizations.

    If I were to over generalize to you, I would bet that you are the type of person that disavows government intervention in pretty much everything but then would be the first person in line to receive government assistance when it benefits you. That would make you a hypocrite. In addition, I would venture to guess that you have some anger management issues if a blog post gets you so riled up whereby you resort to petty name calling and distortions.

    In other words, let's leave the name calling and cursing out of a discussion, even if you disagree.

  6. Mrs. Q, I just want to say that I love your blog and you. Don't be discouraged by disgruntled trolls.

    Okay, so I think it's sad that so many teens' first job is at these types of companies that follow the "zero-training" theory. First of all, it makes the job MISERABLE for the young employees, who don't want to be there in the first place (let's be honest, they'd rather be hanging with their friends!). Mindless work is the worst. Second of all, it conditions them to have an aversion to work/jobs. In my mind, the word "job" still evokes boredom, misery, and wasting time (my first job was frying chicken in a deli). But most of all, it's a huge wasted opportunity for preparing teens with fundamental skills for their careers. How much can they learn by pressing buttons and reciting "Welcome to Burger King, can I take your order?" It'd be amazing if more teens could find more meaningful jobs with more stimulating, hands-on work. I guess I just connected more with the teenager side of the story because I'm just in college now, so it's more relevant to me.

    2. I LOATHE marketing to kids. Reading about that issue really infuriated me. It shows just how shady and manipulative these companies are. One thing I like about Disney Channel is that, unlike Nickolodeon and Cartoon Network, they don't show advertisements for toys, food, etc. Their commercials are almost exclusively just ads for what's being shown on the channel. It'd be cool if all children's networks took that route. Or, y'know, kids could just go outside and not watch so much TV. 🙂

  7. FYI to FUwFUWSL – I have your IP address and if you come back, I'll report your to your internet service provider and block you from this blog.

  8. I'd really like to mention that I do not consider myself a liberal and wanting better for our nation's health or even just our families doesn't need to be considered as a political stand.

    Great spirits have always encountered violent opposition from mediocre minds. – Albert Einstein

  9. I'm going to side with Mrs Q in declaring Starbucks fast food. And this is coming from someone who makes buying a drink from starbucks a weekly treat.

    I probably wouldn't have said this if not for the fact that earlier this month I tried my first artisan latte (the kind made by trained baristas who make the pretty leaf/heat designs with the foam in their lattes–this isn't just fancy footwork, it's a sign that your espresso has been brewed properly and the milk has been steamed to certain specifications. It is impossible to make the designs otherwise). It tasted completely unlike any coffee I have ever had in my life. Honestly, it was more like a cup of unsweetened cocoa in flavor.

    The reason I'm telling this story is because the minute I took my first sip of real latte, I had a vision of someone only ever eating McDonalds hamburgers, only to one day try a home-grilled burger on a spongy bun topped with veggies and real mayonaise. It was that kind of an extreme difference.

    I'll still drink a starbucks latte, but it is now with the understanding that it is fast food coffee. Just like McDonalds serves fast food hamburgers. I truly never understood how extreme the difference was until I tried the real thing.

    Seriously though. Artisan lattes are sooooooo decadent and good. If you ever have the opportunity to buy one, I highly, highly encourage you to splurge on such an amazing treat.

  10. No matter how menial a job may seem, there's dignity in holding down a job, showing up on time every day, getting along with coworkers, serving customers effectively, doing the work that's asked of you no matter how tedious or unpleasant it may seem, and earning an honest paycheck. If that's all a young person's first job teaches them, they've learned the basic job skills they're going to need in each and every job for which they're hired over their entire lifetime. That's the value in spending a summer (or more) pushing a button and saying, "Welcome to Burger King. May I take your order?"

    As a hiring manager, I expected a successful applicant to demonstrate that he or she possessed all those skills in addition to a B.S. in finance and an M.B.A. from a well-regarded school. Nothing's uglier than an employee at any level from janitor to vice president, who can't show up on time every day, can't get along with coworkers at all levels, doesn't provide effective service to clients, or is unwilling to do the parts of the job he or she finds boring or unpleasant.

    A good employer cares about the well-being of its employees because it affects productivity and morale as well as a company's bottom line. I think any company in the U.S. that hires even one person who can't speak English ought to help and encourage that person to learn English. There are free or minimal cost English as a second language programs available across the country. If there isn't one in the employer's community, that employer could partner with a local library, college, or public school system to organize one and staff it with volunteers. It's good for everyone.

  11. It is emphatically not the employer's job to teach you job skills unrelated to your job. Personally I doubt I'd hire anyone that couldn't speak at least some basic English. Now, if an employer thinks it is worth it to offer those classes for whatever reason–help with employee retention, whatever, then that's great, but they're not really under an ethical mandate to do so. A smart employer will do what they can to make a job, or at least the working conditions, tolerable because turnover sucks.

    As far as marketing…I guess I'm cynical. I'd like to see some regulations on advertisements, and I'd like to see regulations that dictate that they make nutrition info more readily available. But I'm not sure it'd help much.

    And the FUwFUWSC may be a troll but I promise his ISP doesn't give a damn what he post on your blog. It didn't cross the line to threats so reporting him won't do anything (nor should it IMO; if people got internet access yanked for being abrasive we'd all be in deep crap at some point).

  12. Kim, I actually agree with you. I learned several important things (like punctuality and responsibility) from my high school and college jobs; however, I still believe these mindless jobs disadvantage the youth in the various ways I mentioned before.

  13. 1. Is it really the obligation of fast food chains to take an interest in their workers and to teach them job skills?

    Nah. I think it would be nice if everyone looked out for each other, and those in power DID want to help others better themselves and learn and grow. Not to mention, better management of employees promotes loyalism and higher productivity, and ultimately better business. I am a nurse and recently left a job where we had some people who were both good nurses and good staff members, and some who lacked in one or both categories– working with said people brings down the morale of everyone involved. Nothing like spending 12 hours at a stretch with people who are unhelpful in emergencies, only looking out for themselves, and terrible at communication. Depressingly, I get the impression there are a ton of people who are raised with the "you better look out for yourself because everyone else is trying to take things from you or pawn off their work on you" frame of mind. And to me that seems like such a waste of fearful energy.

    I work my hardest, and try to assume most everyone else is too. And if they aren't, then I hope if nothing else, they will see that I pitch in and willingly help, and will do the same for me when I'm in a bind.

    2. Should advertisers be permitted to target children?

    I am all for free speech and such, but I have to argue against this idea. EVERYONE is paying for the lack of adequate health promotion (insurance, PE, health class). we are funding perhaps the most inefficient way to deal with the country's mounting health crises possible. Why pay $100 for a thorough checkup for a noninsured person, when you can instead wait til they have an emergency and end up in the ICU for a week at $1500 per DAY? Anyway, none of that is new information, just ranting a little, sorry.

    I think that as a country, we really can't afford where our health is headed, and putting less commercial influence on kids really needs to happen. I'd totally support a black and white grocery store, even though that prospect is not going to happen. Seeing kids my age (25) who have managed to destroy their kidneys and are now dialysis dependent from high blood pressure or diabetes is just really tragic.

    Sorry for being a Debbie Downer commenter. 🙂

  14. 1. Any job should teach you skills. It's the nature of working. Punctuality, responsibility, following directions, etc. are all skills.

    Better treatment of employees leads to better service for the customers. When did we forget about that? When we started rushing people through conveyor belt lines.

    As for language classes for employees – seriously, it's something that should be considered. I hate going to a business that has people who can't speak, read or understand English very well. It makes for a very frustrating visit on my part and I'm very unlikely to shop/buy there again. The ability to communicate effectively is vital.

    2. Marketing to children needs to be toned down. They are blasted from all sides and they don't have the mental filters to be able to make wise choices or ignore all they are bombarded with.

    I love the idea of a "black and white" grocery! It's unlikely to happen but it's a happy thought.

    I'm about half-way through the book. It's difficult to read about all the things going on in the food production industry.

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