We Went to the McDonald’s Build Your Own Burger Test Restaurant
On the outside, the McDonald’s in Laguna Nigel, California looks like every other store in the chain. There’s sad white walls, three kids running in circles while their parents beg them to stuff more fries into their faces, and the prominent golden arches luring you inside to get your weekly grease injection. Upon further inspection, this McDonald’s was like no McDonald’s I had ever been to, because it’s the tester restaurant for their new build-your-own-burger gimmick.
My first thought was “damn, this place is clean.” It was clean, you guys. The counter was shiny, and the walls were painted with stripes to look futuristic and European. What shocked me the most, however, was the sheer friendliness of the employees. Three teenaged girls in white button-up shirts greeted me instantly with big smiles. “Welcome to McDonald’s!” They were like the Stepford Wives, but a fast-food employee version.
This McDonald’s is the McDonald’s of the future. I’m not saying that just because it’s really clean and people are happy. I’m saying that because this McDonald’s has iPads! What do these iPads do? They are the tool with which you customize your burger order. With this magic iPad, you’re able to order such exotic menu items as an “artisan roll,” and “guacamole.” Yeah you heard me, a McDonald’s that serves guacamole. Welcome to the 21st century, fuckers. Obviously, little things like “clean dining areas,” “friendly service,” and “freedom of choice” are not features that can be rolled out to every McDonald’s all at once. No, those things have to be “tested,” and Laguna Nigel is the only place where you can enjoy the aforementioned amenities.
McDonald’s Is Violating Labor Laws in Brazil
Brazil is home to more McDonald’s than any other place in the Western Hemisphere, aside from the US. The federal police in Brazil recently announced that they have been investigating McDonald’s for the past several months over allegations that its workers have been laboring in “slave-like conditions.” The case was announced last week, in response to a 17-year-old girl’s complaint, filed in October, that she had worked at a São Paulo McDonald’s for eight months without receiving any pay.
The girl testified that when she started at McDonald’s, she had been told to open a bank account to receive her salary via direct deposit. When she gave them her savings-account information, the manager told her to open a checking account. The girl opened the checking account but claims that management continued to make excuses not to pay her. Her mother, Maria das Graças Nonato, initially thought her daughter was lying to her about her earnings but eventually took her to meet with union representatives, who brought the allegations to the federal police.
Antonio Carlos Lacerda, a lawyer from the Hotel and Restaurant Workers Union, says, “The police are focusing on this individual case because the girl has agreed to testify, but this is not an isolated incident. We know of many other similar situations, and this is why they have decided to step in. I believe that when the investigation is concluded, they will prove that there is a systematic pattern of this kind of behavior through the entire McDonald’s system.”
This incident is one more setback for McDonald’s in a long line of labor issues in Brazil. Last year, there were 1,790 cases against the company in the state of São Paulo alone for claims ranging from firing pregnant women in order to avoid paying maternity leave, to overtime violations and failure to pay the minimum wage. According to the news magazine Brasil de Fato, one of the reasons that McDonald’s has gotten away with so many labor crimes is that they focus on hiring teenagers from poor backgrounds who have little job experience and don’t know their rights.
• McWorld is a giant McDonald’s flagship store.
• McWorld serves food from all the different McDonald’s menus from around the world.
• McWorld is located in Times Square.
Sometimes, I see it like Epcot Center: there’d be a central courtyard, maybe a water feature (McOcean or something), and surrounding it would be a variety of pavilions, each replicating the McDonald’s experience from a different country. Pop over to Taiwan for a McRice burger (the rice, oddly, is formed into cakes that replace the buns, not the fillings), back to Brazil for a side of nachos, and wash it all down with a frosty cane-sugar Coke from Mexico.
The way I’ve been thinking about it lately, though, is that it’s split into two or three different levels.
— This piece on The Awl about McWorld is truly one of the great proposals we’ve heard.
With an entire cottage film industry dedicated to making documentaries about the evils of fast-food, corporatization, and factory farming sometimes eating at McDonalds feels like the laziest, stupidest thing a person can do. Still, most of us will pass beneath the golden arches for a snack at some point this year. No judgment, brother! Sometimes — in a rundown, South American airport perhaps — the familiarity of McD’s trumps a healthier, foreign option. We’re not saying it’s the right thing to do. In fact, based on the picture above, it’s probably the most wrong thing to do.