If our society were to continue on the same heading it is on indefinitely into the future, fast food chain restaurants would be with us for a long time due to their convenience and relative affordability. Fortunately, I think our society is in for drastic changes in the very near future.
There is already an undeniably strong and growing movement against the fast food industry and various other peddlers of malnutrition, which undoubtedly would eventually cut into the profits of fast food companies. Already, companies are making steps to respond to consumer’s health concerns; though those steps so far are only tokens of symbolism.
McDonald’s has introduced organic coffee to their menu. Burger King has added a vegetarian burger to the menu. Of course, coffee is not McDonald’s main appeal and it’s not a very good option to begin converting to organics, as the move to organics is largely a health-based movement and caffeine-based products tend to appeal less to the market in question. Burger King’s vegetarian burger is likely not to be a success either, for similar reasons. Vegetarians who eat vegetarian for health reasons will not be impressed with the grease-ridden burgers fried up on the grill with all the meat-burger grease, and the militant vegetarians who don’t eat meat because it supports those who kill animals will never eat at Burger King on principle.
Conscious consumer movements are great, but they will never be strong enough to kill big fast food companies. They’re not even strong enough to warrant a sincere address of grievances reflected in policy changes. The truth is, the people who are getting swept up in the nutritional food movement were never the same people who made up any significant portion of fast food companies’ revenue. The end of fast food will come out of a very different set of market forces.
The entire world is about to go through a big change, which will be most drastic in the United States. The United States uses one quarter of the energy that the world produces every year. The world is running out of cheap energy; as evidenced by the more than tripling of the price of a barrel of oil from 2003 when a barrel cost $29, to the cost now in late 2007 – just under $100 per barrel. This, more than anything else, threatens to end fast food and a lot of other aspects of the lifestyle Americans have gotten used to over the past century. It is undeniable that the price of energy is rising, and I see nothing in the near future that is going to drop that price back down to where it was. Many are already feeling the strain.
Fast food cannot exist without factory produced, ready to cook and serve food being shipped to chain restaurants all over the country from thousands of miles away. Needless to say, as the price of energy rises so too will the cost of fast food until one day, perhaps not too long from now, people will simply no longer be willing or able to pay unreasonable amounts of money for nutritionless sustenance.