It’s time for the next installment of our project to track the fast food development of all the countries we’ve visited as a tongue in cheek proxy for their overall development. If you’re not familiar with our categorisation, you can find it here.
Ecuador is a pretty easy case. There are Western fast food brands here – we’ve seen McDonlad’s, KFC, Burger King, Subway – so it’s at least a stage two. But there aren’t many franchises. We’ve seen them only in Quito, the largest, and most cosmopolitan city, and in Cuenca which has a significant population of US retirees. Nothing anywhere else we’ve been including tourist centres and towns of more than 100,000 people.
And where it is available, Western branded fast food is really expensive. Victims of an inexplicable public transit system in Quito we found ourselves seeking shelter under the golden arches from an impending rain storm. The lunch we ate there was maybe three times as expensive as a set meal in a local restaurant. And the clientele was mostly foreign, or at least very European looking Ecuadorians.
The conclusion is clear. Ecuador is stage 2: Western fast food is available in major cities (or tourist traps) but is prohibitively expensive for all but the richest.
McDonalization is a term developed and used by a psychologist called George Ritzer. He uses it to talk about societies that develop characteristics that are also seen in fast food chains: efficiency, calculability, predictability and control.
One example of McDonalization that Ritzer uses is of a certain style of journalism that’s served up in bite sized pieces, with predictable narratives and general inoffensiveness. On that front, at least, there doesn’t seem to be a correlation with the fast food development we’ve observed. That kind of ‘junk food journalism’ is very much alive and well in Colombian and Ecuadorian tabloids.
But you can see his more general point, and we could probably think of other examples. More developed societies tend to feel more efficient and more rational. There’s certainly a stronger sense of control and order. And the less developed have that enigmatic sense of functional chaos that’s the polar opposite of a McDonald’s drive through system.