Is Fast Food Too Fast?
We’ve all probably had the experience where we ordered at a fast food place when the place was dead and returned to our table with luke-warm food. Most luke-warm food is within the health code, but that doesn’t mean that I don’t stand at the register and watch how close the timer is to zero. If I wanted cold food, I’d be eating ice cream.
Not that the timer tells me much. Current and former fast food employees know that the countdown lies at times. We know that employees lazed into not caring about health codes and belligerent that they have to work in such mind numbing environments at times restart the timer without switching out the food leaving the unsuspecting customer with food that the health code prohibits the company from selling. It’s not the companies fault—not really.
Individual Items Produced Relatively Fast
I’ve worked fast food. I know how long it takes to cook the food. The fries, the hamburgers, and the chicken nuggets can all be cooked in less than five minutes. The chicken sandwiches and the baked potatoes take a little longer, but most of the items can be made for the individual pretty fast.
I tend to be of the opinion that I want quality food and am willing to wait for it. Five minutes seems a fair trade for food just off the burner or out of the oil. Five minutes seems like a fair trade for food that isn’t limp and cold.
Then I remember the times when I zoomed through the drive-through on the way to work or school. Or those times when I stopped in briefly for my half hour lunch break. At those times you can’t afford to wait five minutes let alone the half an hour that you would have to wait for your food if fast food wasn’t fast.
You have to consider that the speed that fresh food would be delivered to your table would be relative to the number of people currently ordering meals at the restaurant. If you come during the busy lunch hour you could end up waiting as long as you would at a restaurant for your food. Let’s face it while fresh fast food can be good, it’s not so good that we’d be willing to wait a half an hour to eat.
Current Set Up Impossible
The change from fast to slow would force the stores to revamp their kitchens. The hamburgers would be easy to make as the orders come in. Other items would be trickier to cook when the place is busy due to the current kitchen set-ups of many fast food establishments.
The main problem would be deep-fried food. The hash browns, the fries, and the chicken products. Currently fast food places tend to have a deep fryer with two sections. Each section contains 1 or 2 medium sized deep fryer baskets. Current fast food protocol has deep fried food cooked in bulk, and then stored under heat lamps or insulated drawers. When the product is needed or past their serve time, drawers are emptied and new product takes its place.
If the protocol changes from bulk cooking the current set up would be insufficient. The employee would not be able to drop a spicy chicken into a container that already holds spicy chicken because there would be no way to tell if the chicken you fish out is the fully cooked or partly cooked spicy chicken. The whole affair would be a lawsuit waiting to happen, so if you ordered a spicy chicken, you would need to wait while the fries, chicken nuggets, fish fillet, and chicken sandwich is made for the people ahead of you before they could even begin cooking your food. At the busiest time of day there could be ten to twenty different items that need to be deep fried in different containers. More basket and deep fryers would be needed to serve all the people who would order in a timely fashion.
The Customer is Always Right
Where does that leave those of us who want fresh food, but aren’t willing to implement the change that could mean waiting a half an hour or longer for mediocre food? Well you have three options at this point.
- Accept the current status quo and hope that the item is relatively hot. If the food is too cold, complain and get fresh food.
- Order specialized items if you suspect that the food is prepared beforehand. Tell the cashier you don’t want ketchup on that hamburger or salt on those fries. This will assure that your food is fresh.
- Request hot and fresh food. This might annoy them, but they can’t tell you no. As the customer you are right and they are wrong. You’ll have to be willing to wait a few minutes for the fresh food.
Fast food is fast because we want it to be. We might believe that the whole arrangement is crazy, wasteful, and sometimes unpalatable, but that is the price we all must pay for food that arrives at our tables mere minutes after we order. At this point your best bet would be to navigate within the system.
Carrie Stark has grown up eating veges grown in America’s most fertile mid-west soils and doesn’t plan on stopping anytime soon. She currently explores her passion for food by cooking and writing about food with the people at www.sunshinesweetcorn.com.