Waste in American Fast Food Restaurants

Fast Food in Germany

If you walk into a McDonald’s or Burger King in Germany (and you will after a few days in the country when you can’t stand the steady diet of bread, cold cuts, cheese and carbonated water) you will notice a few curiosities. After you get over the fact that there is beer on the menu on the wall behind the counter, and you place your order, you will be struck by how expensive the stuff is.

When you get to your seat and you start eating, you will find that you don’t have any ketchup. You look around for condiments and you can’t find any. Finally you go to the counter and ask for ketchup.

“How many?” the server asks.

You think you’re dealing with a language barrier issue. So you respond: “Ketchup.”

“How many?” the server asks again.

Finally you realize that she wants to know how many packets. Ahh.

“A couple,” you say.

“How many?” the server asks again.

Now you realize that you actually are dealing with a language barrior.

“Oh, two,” you finally state, holding up the wrong two fingers.

She reaches under the counter and drops two plastic packets of ketchup on the counter. You reach for them.

“Forty cents,” she says.

Incredulous, you hesitate for a moment, and then you realize that you’re going to have to pay before you can walk away with the ketchup. You made a purchase. As you count out the coins, you can’t help but wonder if you really needed two packets of the stuff, or if one might not have been enough.

You get back to your table and spread the precious red paste over your fries (Pommes Frites – which is French for fried potatoes).

You take your first sip of your Coke (Cola – which is German for Coke) and you realize that it does not have a single ice cube in it.

You are afraid of going back to the counter, cup in hand, but you can’t stand the warmish Coke, so you go. You ask for ice and hope it’s free. The server carefully puts about three or four ice cubes into your cup and gives it back to you.

You go back to your seat and enjoy your 10 Euro (close to 15 dollars) meal.

Fast Food in America

You go into a McDonald’s or Burger King (or any other brand) restaurant and place your order.

“Do you need ketchup?” the server asks.

“Yes, a couple.” No language barrier here. You want two packets. You know that’s about what you need for the small order of fries.

The server reaches under the counter and grabs a handful and slaps them on the tray.

You count them. There are seven packets. You need two.

I don’t think I have ever asked for fast food ketchup at the counter or at the drive-through and got less than 5 packets. Ever.

Then count the number of napkins they put on your trey, if it’s the kind of restaurant where they give you the napkins. It’s always a stack.

I can’t help but believe that the reason the management decided to have the servers hand out condiments and napkins is to save on waste. I also can’t help but believe that the servers, poorly trained and ignorant, do not save money, the way they are working the system.

Finally, you’re done eating. You dump the contents of our tray into the trash:

  1. A paper place mat full of printed games and advertisement.
  2. A stack of at least three or four completely untouched napkins.
  3. Two crumpled, soiled napkins you actually used.
  4. The paper wrapper your burger came in.
  5. A number of sticks of french fries.
  6. The cardboard container your fries came in.
  7. A cash register receipt.
  8. A few leaves of lettuce – there is always too much lettuce on the sandwich.
  9. A cardboard cup half full of ice that had to be frozen and will now melt in the trash.
  10. The cardboard cup, its lid and a plastic straw.

You had lunch.

Leave a Reply