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Haste Makes Waste August 29, 2006

Posted by Brian L. Belen in Ramblings.
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I ducked into a McDonald’s the other day for a snack. While I was waiting for my order, the store manager and one of the service crew were having a discussion about the three medium-sized servings of french fries waiting in the warmer. Then, without warning, the manager reached out and threw each into the nearby trash bin, replacing them with a new batch. Why? Well, from what I gathered, they’d been sitting there for nearly ten minutes, a lifetime in the fast food world.

I suppose this is just a facet of the industry’s dark underbelly. As the name implies, “fast food” is a promise firstly that the food one demands can be obtained quickly, and secondly that it is of a certain (edible) quality. Therein lies the dilemma. To make sure that there is food available for the next customer, especially during busy hours, stores have an incentive to prepare dishes in advance if they can anticipate what the demand will be, which of course goes to waste if they guess wrong. Similarly, rather than risk customers’ ire because of sub-par quality food, stores may be better off throwing out food-already-available-but-has-been-sitting-there-quite-a-while and cooking up a new batch of food right smartly. Either way you slice it, the result is a whole lot of food down equally many trash bins the world over.

Certainly, it’s hard not to feel bad about the amount of food that gets wasted this way. If there’s any consolation, I suppose the customer ultimately benefits; I mean, who wouldn’t want a fresh batch of crispy french fries? Then again, if those fries are no good after as short as ten minutes, it’s a wonder why their sale is sanctioned at all. That I’d rather not think about.

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