The uniqueness of fast-food brands that once caught our eye, like the Golden Arches or Pizza Hut’s red roof, have been replaced by the same minimalist architecture that mimics upscale restaurants. These boring additions were no mistake, but rather, a sad example of how McDonaldization is negatively impacting society.
George Ritzer, a distinguished sociology professor for the University of Maryland, coined the term in his book, The McDonaldization of Society. It refers to four key qualities offered by the McCorporation: efficiency, calculability, predictability and control. McDonald’s provides efficiency with quick service. It offers calculability by serving large portions of food for low prices; individuals are getting the “most bang for their buck.” These restaurants give a sense of predictability or familiarity no matter where you are. When you order a Big Mac in New York, you can expect the taste to be almost the same as a Big Mac in Los Angeles. McDonald’s also controls both employees and customers with workers being slowly phased out by technology that does their jobs, like tablets that take your order and soft-drink machines that automatically stop when the drink is full. Customers are then coached through lines to sit down in uncomfortable seats meant to make people want to leave as soon as they finish eating.
While McDonaldization started in the fast food industry, it certainly has not stopped there. McDonaldization has affected other industries like sports, healthcare and even education. Sports fans can now buy their tickets through online vendors without ever interacting with an employee, doctor appointments consist of the physician spending fifteen or thirty minutes going through a checklist of items and each school district has a standardized curriculum that every child follows.
This approach has led to dehumanization. While it may be nice to eliminate human error, sometimes unpredictability makes that meal all the more special. Imagine opening up your 10-piece Chicken McNuggets and finding 11 nuggets. This personal touch makes each interaction unique. Furthermore, the homogenization of society has resulted in too much familiarity. Since most brands have decided to switch towards a sleek, simple and boring image, everywhere feels and looks the same. It no longer feels special to visit certain brand-name stores. People are also being treated less as individuals and more as a collective entity.
However, McDonaldization is not entirely bad. In this fast paced society, it’s necessary to be efficient. People often do not have time nor want to make the commitment to spend over an hour eating at a restaurant when they can eat a meal in less than fifteen minutes. Furthermore, the uniform nature allows a wider range of goods and services to be distributed across the country and rural areas that do not traditionally have access to fresh food. The uniformity of the services ensure the same quality and familiarity. This more impersonal approach gets rid of some of the personal bias and prejudice that is inherent in human interaction.
While McDonaldization has benefited American society, it causes problems that are much worse. If society were to continue down this dark path of efficiency, life will seem a lot more bland and pointless. This can stunt the personal growth of humanity and potentially lead to a society that lacks creativity and individuality.