Unhappy Meals

29 03 2012

Sometimes the truth just hurts.

We know we probably should not eat as much fast food as we do. Deep down inside we understand that most of the stuff is artery-clogging, fat-filled, empty calories that barely provide some semblance of nutrition. But now along comes a study that shows, among other things, that fast food patrons are the least happy Americans when it comes to their health.

Well hold the pickle, hold the relish. Apparently these orders really do upset us.

Worse yet, the article ranks the top four (or should I say bottom four?) fast food eateries for customer unhappiness: #1, McDonal;d’s; #2, Taco Bell; #3, Wendy’s, and, #4, Burger King.

And not only are these patrons unhappy with their health, they are doing to least to help it!

Through my Marketer’s eyes, these means that fast food as an industry has a long way to go toward correcting its image as unhealthy, bad-for-you food. Sure, McDonald’s may have made great strides with salads and apple slices, but it has a long way to go.

Fast food is viewed as fast and convenient, and often as being cheaper than other alternatives. Compared to fast-casual sit-down restaurants, this is probably true. And those fast-casual diners can be just as unhealthy, if the wrong menu items are selected. The same goes for fast food.

The study, though, points out that fast food patrons tend to already be less than health-conscious by default, or else they probably would not be there in the first place. Although healthier options are available if one looks, going to fast food for the health of it is like smoking cigarettes and saying that each puff combats all those nasty airborne pollens we inhale this time of year.

And it’s not that fast food cannot have an entirely healthy focus. It’s just that maybe we Americans are not yet ready to embrace it. There was once a Bless Your Heart franchise in Amarillo, but here in the middle of cattle country, it just could not compete with the heavy-on-the-beef menus of the burger joints. There was never an issue finding a parking spot at Bless Your Heart, and the shop barely lasted a couple of years.

While the study highlights the apparent dissatisfaction with living that fast food patrons report, change is going to have to come from both within…and without. Literally.It is hard to blame the fast food establishments when no one is holding a gun to consumers’ heads. No one makes us go to McDonald’s. And while Fast Food, Inc., could certainly stand to clean up its menus, it is going to take customer demand to make it happen. In other words, fast food restaurants serve what people want…even if it is making them unhappy.

And that, my friends, is not going to be easy. We crave convenience and speed, even to the point of compromising our health. There is a sad commentary within when a burger through a drive-up window trumps health and fitness. Besides, it’s darn near impossible to eat a salad while driving. It makes texting look relatively safe.

Which is another way of saying that I don’t expect to see much come of these results. We already knew most of this. Americans may have little or no control over their choice of restaurants, but probably even less control over their hectic lives. And this goes a long way toward explaining the study’s results.

The truth really does hurt, and in this case, it’s a 1-2 punch right to the gut. Literally.

Dr “Can I Get That To Go?” Gerlich

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