Bolivaran revolution for McDonald

McDonald’s_Closes_All_Their_Restaurants_in_Bolivia_bbIt’s interesting to read that fast food chain McDonald’s has closed its remaining outlets in Bolivia.

While activists in Australia and elsewhere often campaign to keep Maccas out of their neck of the woods, in Bolivia, it appears to be simple consumer rejection:

The documentary includes interviews with cooks, sociologists, nutritionists, educators, historians and more, where there is a general agreement: the rejection is neither to the hamburgers nor to their taste. The rejection is in the minds and mentality of Bolivians. Everything indicates that “fast food” is literally the opposite of a Bolivian’s conception of how to prepare a meal.

In Bolivia, the food to be good requires, in addition to taste, care, and hygiene, a lot of preparation time. This is how a consumer values the quality of what goes into the stomach, also by the amount of time it took to make the meal. Fast food is not for these people, the Americans concluded.

What is it about Australian food cultures that allows Maccas to survive and thrive?

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28 responses to “Bolivaran revolution for McDonald”

  1. Craig Mc

    Or it could be just another business interest getting out of Dodge before their property is stolen a la Chavez.

  2. alfred venison

    autralians are the people i know of who eat while walking on the footpath. is that an indicator of predisposition? -a.v.

  3. Russell

    Alf – those are the descendents of the convicts. No one has ever told them it’s vulgar to eat while walking.

    “What is it about Australian food cultures that allows Maccas to survive and thrive?”

    In a word: laziness.

  4. Ronson Dalby

    At first I thought this was one of those urban legends and initial research seemed to point that way. However, it appears this actually happened in 2002 but wasn’t picked up until this decade.

  5. Chris

    In a word: laziness.

    But according to the article Ronson linked to apparently they still have burger king, subway etc as well as their own local versions of fast food. It seems to be a specific rejection of McDonalds, not fast food. Perhaps there is something that McDonalds did that adversely affected Bolivians directly?

    Also given McDonalds is the defacto icon of americanism, perhaps there is sufficient patriotism to symbolically reject McDonalds, but still accept other US fast food chains.

  6. Russell

    Chis – I meant laziness as applied to us, not the Bolivians. I could be less harsh, I suppose, on a Friday …. laziness on the one hand, and business on the other. Bolivians may not spend as much time out of the home as we do.

    I agree that McDonalds and those imperious golden arches are a symbol of the U.S. In the old days, if you were travelling in foreign climes and just wanted cheap, clean, familiar food you headed for McDonalds, which was often very close to the U.S. Embassy. IIRC, McDonalds was the first American food franchise to go international, KFC not far behind.

  7. Russell

    Not business, busyness. Actually, both.

  8. Sam

    McDonalds and those imperious golden arches are a symbol of the U.S.

    Well, yes, but so is Starbucks, and they aren’t hated nearly as much. Why is it so? It couldn’t be, could it, that McDonalds is suburban (read: tradie bogan Abbott voting) while Starbucks is more inner-city hipster?

    * I know, no respectable inner city Green would dirty themselves by entering a Starbucks, but still.

  9. Ronson Dalby

    Not so long ago (and perhaps it’s still the case), if you were an American backpacker and “if you were travelling in foreign climes” you had a Canadian flag on your backpack if you were sensible.

  10. Russell

    Sam – they weren’t the first – McDonalds was a unique American presence in those other countries, and so associated with the U.S. (Plus the outstanding golden arches!). And the food was different: burgers, fries and thickshakes. Starbucks is discreet, just another U.S. franchise, and everybody already had coffee.

  11. desipis

    What is it about Australian food cultures that allows Maccas to survive and thrive?

    A lack of strong cultural foundation (in food in this instance) that facilitates commercial exploitation of our most base desires?

  12. Chris

    Chis – I meant laziness as applied to us, not the Bolivians. I could be less harsh, I suppose, on a Friday …. laziness on the one hand, and business on the other. Bolivians may not spend as much time out of the home as we do.

    Yea I guess I was querying why some fast food restaurants in Bolivia survive eg Subway, and especially burger king which is pretty much just McDonalds with a different logo, but not McDonalds.

    Re: laziness – as you say its a combination of busyness and lazyness – there’s a lot of time poor people out there.

    But also fast food places like McDonalds are actually really kid friendly – all weather playgrounds for example. My daughter doesn’t want to go to McDonalds because of the food (although she will eat it) – its the 50c plastic toy and the playground in combination with a restaurant. I’ve never really understood why more places that want the young kid family trade don’t do on-site playgrounds. Or why more playgrounds don’t have food-vans (maybe its a council thing).

  13. Tim Macknay

    What desipis @11 says. Michael Pollan discusses this at length in The Omnivore’s Dilemma and is pretty convincing IMHO.

    But with regard to Macca’s getting out of Bolivia, Craig Mc also has a point.

  14. wilful

    Why Australia? In how many countries apart from Bolivia is this happening?

    From my reading of the business pages, Australia is a mature market for maccas, with limited growth potential, but total penetration is much lower than in some other countries, particularly the USA, while the corporation anticipates strong growth in SE Asia for the next few decades. So it doesn’t sound like we should be beating up on ourselves too much (though I know that’s a bit of a national sport amongst the left).

    Besides, we fended off Starbucks, at least in Melbourne. The only people who buy from Starbucks are international students and tourists.

  15. Ronson Dalby

    Now if only this group could get even half the market penetration of McDonalds:

    I think their next franchise should be in Katoomba.

  16. jungney

    South America, including Latin America, is the site of the most significant, popular resistance to homogenizing US culture in the world.

    Keep your eye on that space.

  17. philip travers

    Maccas is like the song ‘ video killed the radio star’.Or was it the master’s dog was killed by the prick caught in a rut!? I think there is a very brave but frighted Israeli by the name of Torv in Bolivia .I tried to convince the Bolivian Embassy to look after this man.Found the Bolivian Government site in Australia hard to understand.’

  18. Brian

    As Ronson linked @ 4, it seems it happened in 2002 and no-one knows for sure why.

    The story reminds me of Wal-Mart pulling out of Germany in 2006, for a variety of reasons. Much of it seemed to relate to formula driven operations that don’t fit every culture. Here’s Deutsche Welle and the NY Times.

  19. Graham Bell

    How long before we get lots of PRC Chinese and Korean fast-food franchises?

    Being time-poor is a factor. Meals-on-the-run was always standard for me and my work colleagues …. no such thing as a long lunch in our world.

    desipis @ 11: True.

  20. Linda

    We social workers, stressed out and time poor, utilize Maccas as substitute offices when we’re out “in the field” quite regularly. Consistently clean facilities, including bathrooms, free wifi, child-friendly space, decent coffee etc. On week days most have some quiet areas where we can do the de-briefs, type a few notes up, on the run.

    You could say Maccas are providing a community service. I would like to see social workers special on the menu, maybe even a small meeting room. I wonder if Maccas even know how much we rely on them.

  21. jungney

    Linda, only someone who’d been there and done that would make that comment. Maccas is also a top spot for child handover between relatives and all sorts of child welfare workers. Neutral territory with surveillance cameras, just in case.

  22. Linda

    I hadn’t considered the cameras but yes, an added resource. Gotta scrounge resources where you can.

  23. Alexis

    Ronson @ 9, and increasingly, if you’re an image-conscious Australian backpacker, you pretend to be a Kiwi.

  24. jules

    My family in Melbourne love Lord of the Fries. My nephew works in the Fitzroy one.

    I have friends who love Macdonalds. Go on and on about how good it tastes. I disagree – if you want a good burger go to the Wadeville shop. Tell ’em i sent you.

    I think there is more than just the obvious tho. Years ago i read a bit by a guy called Micheal Ventura – an American writer with a good understanding of aspects of his culture. He wrote a bit bemoaning the rise of the franchise, the loss of difference between places (local fast food specialties being a big loss iho.) How sense of time and place were going in a culture where franchises grew and so did mass media delivered by cable.

    Ventura loves driving across the US and watched the sense of “localness” disappear during the 70s and 80s. He’s not necessarily trying to romanticise it either. he can be as critical of the insular bigotry those places foster as the sense of place they develop. there’s probably a lot to unpack in that idea actually. One comment he said that stuck with me and may be relevant to this discussion:

    McDonalds always had the cleanest bathrooms on the road.”

    Or words to that effect. Also if you are traveling you can rely on the food quality and the “kids favorites”, and as someone mentioned its a kid friendly place. In Australia we drive massive distances compared to alot of the rest of the world. (In my 20s we used to think nothing of jumping in the car and driving from Northern NSW to Melbourne in a sitting 1000 miles in anything from 15 to 20 hours depending on how stupid we were behaving at the time.)

    Families, mine included, would drive from cities to coastal holidays all the time, many still do – and being able to rely on a kid friendly place with reliable “samey” food and clean dunnies seems pretty important. In a country that spawned a song like Wide Open Road it seems only natural that a McDonalds like franchise will thrive if they make it fun for kids, a relief for traveling parents and the dunnies are clean.

    And at the same time it creates an association between good times on the road and McDonalds as a food source.

  25. Luxxe

    [email protected] – I know this is a bit tangential to what you were getting at, but – why would anyone propose food vans at playgrounds? Kids should play then go home to eat home-cooked food. If they’re at the playground on their own, getting hungry is time to leave. If Mum and Dad are there, again, they should either have taken a sarnie or cart the kids home upon hunger pangs. There is too much salt, sugar and saturated fat in fast food, and that includes non-franchised “van food”. Fine as an occasional treat, but I’d be very worried if my kid was exposed to fast food outlets as a matter of course, like, just at any playground.

  26. Steve X

    The Starbucks thing in Australia is pretty funny.

    Starbucks hasn’t established much in Australia because it was ‘pre-cloned’ by Gloria Jeans, Hudsons and others. They ripped off much of the Starbucks model but unfortunately in the case of Gloria Jeans make worse coffee.

    Starbucks was too slow in getting to Australia, it’s not that Australians reject that kind of operation.

  27. Chris

    Luxxe @ 25 – I think I understand what you’re saying. But I’m not so looking from the point of view of “We’re at the playground, should we eat here or not”, but instead “We’re out and about and looking for somewhere to eat. Do we go to a restaurant/cafe where the kid(s) will be forced to just sit around before and after they eat, or can we find somewhere they can run around while the food is getting ready and then again afterwards when they’ve finished but the adults are still eating?”

    The choice being made is not between eating home cooked food or eating out (that decision has already been made), its between the children being able to run around or not.

  28. Peter Mcilwain

    I’ve been a part of the No Maccas in Tecoma champaign which has currently been in the news and is referred to above. I have to say its been amazing to see a whole community come together for so long with with such energy. We have been protesting now for 2 and a half years and over that time have had: 100,000 signatures on a petition, millions of tweets, at least three marches with thousands of people attending, national and international, TV and news coverage and started have had people protesting outside the Maccas site and other sites day in day out for well over a year. This kind of activity is motivated by a lot more than locals “protecting our neck of the woods”. Its an issue that has wide resonance particularly to centred around the fact that large corporations like Maccas attempt to engineer societies to make markets. This connects directly to the Occupy Movement etc. The worst aspect of this is the way they market to children. Its obscene actually, in our case Maccas are setting up right opposite our primary school and kindergarten. The Bolivia case in interesting in that Maccas don’t have enough cultural hooks to do what they do in places like Tecoma. I don’t remember the details now but also it seems the economics for fast food chains don’t to work so well in developing countries.
    Anyway if you want to find out more about Tecoma see: