When confronted with the word, McDonald’s, most people think of the Whopper Meal, or a bright yellow M, famously known as the “Golden Arches” (Macionis 121), sitting on the side of the highway. Little do they know that over 33,000 McDonalds are operating worldwide, one of which holds fifteen hundred people. Not only a “symbol of U. S. Culture” (Macionis 121), but it has become a theory of sociology, unknown to most, conveniently named the “McDonaldization Theory”.
The McDonaldization of Society is based off the findings of George Ritzer (1993), in which he found four basic principles that our society correlates with the McDonalds Empire; those four principles are efficiency, predictability, uniformity and control. Ray Kroc is a marketer for McDonalds Corporation. He was responsible and claims the high success rate for McDonald’s massive expansion. The idea Kroc had, was that in “fifty seconds, a customer would be served an entire meal consistent of hamburger, fries and milkshake.
Customers would pick up their meals, dispose of trash, stack their trays as they walk out or pick up the food and drive off,” (Macionis 121). Such efficiency is the central nervous system of McDonalds and why it is so successful. To get successfully from point A to point B requires a sense of rhythm and harmony between the customer and the McDonalds crew members. When visiting McDonalds for a quick apple pie and milkshake, I observed this little seen ability in action. From the time the cashier took my order, it took no less than 41 seconds to complete my order and send me on my way.
Not only is that nine seconds less than Kroc’s originally planned goal, but highly efficient. Even as my order was being processed, two more customers were already waiting in line to receive their meals. I watched in fascination at the smoothness of the process. By the time I went to my table, the two behind me were quickly following and two more had taken its place. In a matter of nearly three minutes, five people have been helped. In our society, a social norm that we have adapted is that “anything done quickly is, for reason alone, good” (Macionis 121).
However, we fail to realize the complexity it can require in a busy and moving arena. Efficiency is not only a way of life in our society, but also a way of business, structure and success for the McDonalds Corporation. Predictability is set in all walks and forms of life. No one in this world now a days can go anywhere without seeing the tell-tale signs of prediction. A movie theater prepares the floor plan to cure a rush of moviegoers. A retail store will dress a manikin with the according style and wear to match shoppers wants and desires.
To make it seem clearer, Macionis states that, “an efficient organization wants to make everything it does as predictable as possible” (Macionis 121). McDonalds is no exception; from when I first arrived at the parking lot I could view plain indications of predictability. Signs of drive through are interacting with those customers who need a quick meal in a quick way to continue on to through the day, parking signs designate where the handicapped could be assisted, and menu signs on explaining to the public what is available and what the restaurant predicts the consumer wants to buy.
As I was sitting in the establishment, I realized that the crew members realized heavily on the predictability of the customer. Before even reaching the cashier, customers would already know what they would want to purchase, thus creating a quick and time effective efficiency unmatched in highway traffic. The cool part is that not only does McDonalds prepare their menu guides “…using set formulas” (Macionis 121), but also that their “company policies guide the performance of every job” (Macionis 121). Just as McDonalds has figured out the most efficient way of predictability, we as citizens have done the exact same thing.
Using formulas and policies, we have created time management, schedules and the theory of everything has its place and everyone has their role to play. Uniformity is defined as not only a product “according to a standard plan,” but as a “highly rational system that specifies every action and leaves nothing to chance” (Macionis 121-122). Although McDonalds is a worldwide corporation with store locations in Europe, Asia, North and South America, the food is prepared using the exact same formula and method.
A milkshake prepared in Argentina is no different from the milkshake made in Sweden or Maine. Thus comes in the great establishment of uniformity. A great way of explaining this masterful method is when I was at McDonalds myself this past day. Although multiple items were being ordered, the process of getting it to the customer was the same; Take order, communicate the order to crew, process and prepare order, announce order ready, repeat. This went on for each and every customer never faltering from the main root of standard process.
There may have been differences in the order, but the system was never changing. “…our environment (but) our everyday life experiences are more standard then ever” (Macionis 121). By saying this Macionis describes something similar to what I stated in the previous passage. Our daily routine and schedules have become more like reading from a handbook. As a previous student in the public school system, the daily routine from Monday through Friday does not change. From 8 am to 3 pm, you go to class with scheduled breaks and lunch in between.
You may participate in different activities during the breaks or lunch maybe before or after class, but the basic framework on these days and times remains the same. The uniformity of it does not falter, just as the standardization of McDonald’s product does not deferrer even if the geographical location does. The fourth and possibly, in my opinion, the most common and easily recognizable principle is control. Look around the world; the streets are controlled even when no one is there.
Stop lights, traffic signs and stop signs monitor and regulate the flow of cars and pedestrians, which minimizes accidents. McDonalds minimizes the accident ratio by creating a controlled environment. “Cash registers are keyed to pictures of the menu items so that ringing up a customer’s order is as simple as possible” (Macionis 122). Like most of the technology in the information age, McDonalds realized that by calibrating their equipment to have uniformed, efficient, and predictable operations, they would create control inside their restaurant. The most unreliable element in the McDonald’s (and societies) system is human beings” (Macionis 122), everything that is done within the walls is standardized and controlled to create the least collateral damage. There is a counter top keeping the customer and cashier separate to ensure professionalism and security. The tables are evenly spaced to give a sense of public privacy in the lobby area. During my time spent at McDonalds, I was seated right behind a couple conversing quite enthusiastically.
Although nearly back to back, there was no physical touching. Equally, even though their chatter volume was nearing the level of annoying, I was still able to hold a pleasant conversation with my friend across from me. These four principles that Ritzer was able to recognize do not stand alone. A four legged chair cannot stand on three, two or one and function as designed. McDonalds was designed to be a public eating place, providing customer fulfillment in interpersonal interaction and appetite satisfaction.
Similarly, even though we may not notice, society thrives and prosperous off these exact principles. We are able to go throughout our day because of the uniformity we have created through predictability. Going throughout our day in an efficient manner, we have then created a controlled environment that we ourselves flourish in and live by. The McDonaldization Theory, is not only a great way to appreciate an extremely successful corporation, but is also a useful tool in developing a systematic perspective on how our society functions.