Fast Food in Buenos Aires

#1
This post is prompted by a recent posting from AlexD,Esq., who commented on the fine quality of Argentinian food (I concur, incidentally). My question is why one sees the ubiquitous golden arches everywhere in Buenos Aires. Why does Argentina need McDonald's and Burger King -- these symbols of American economic imperialism? They must be selling some of their egregious burgers; they can't be thriving off the sales of ice cream alone. Why do Portenos go for this junk food, which poisons both body and mind? Why does a populist government tolerate this? For that matter, why aren't Coca-Cola and Pepsi booted out as well?
 
#2
Amen!!!!

I completely agree. The claws of corporate America seem to be spoiling the rich culture of not only this country but the entire world. For those of you in this forum who might counter with the argument that ethnic restaurants run rampant in the states... let me tell you: It's not the same. Corporations such as McDonald's, Burger King and the likes thrive on propaganda that tries to Americanize the entire planet. It costs the same to buy a Value Meal here in Buenos Aires as it does to eat an excellent bife de choriso, a salad and a glass of wine at a neighborhood parilla.
I for one boycot these capitalist franchises.
 
#3
I wasn't going to post a response because I'm sick of the sound of my own voice, but here it goes (it's Saturday, I'm reading Thomas Friedman so I'm in the mood for economics and globalization, and I've got WAY too much time on my hands, lol).
I've seen the documentaries, read a lot of the books coming out in the vein of pop-opinionism on globalisation and corpocracy, and yeah, I'm not the biggest fan of a lot of their doings. But let's consider the other side of the coin for a moment.
Argentina runs on corporate sponsorship. It was the first thing I noticed here - you don't go to a pet store, you go to a Eukanuba store, you don't sit in a chair you sit in a Quilmes chair etc. Not exactly that much different from home, but certainly with a greater degree of visibility (anyone go to the PersonalFest? Might as well have been at a corporate convention & team spirit retreat...)
As far as kicking out Coke & Pepsi -- it is actually one of the corporations I don't have major problems with. If it weren't for Coca-Cola there wouldn't be hope fo the schools systems in most developing countries, let alone the US.
In South Africa you will see every school is signposted by Coca-cola because they are the ones that built the schools, that bought the books so that these children could actually get a bit of an education. Coke builds and donates huge amounts of money to schools all over not only Africa but South America, Pakistan,the Phillipines, Indonesia etc etc etc
In the States there is the push to eliminate the soft drinks machines from schools in an effort to fight back against obesity. However, the schools cannot do this since elminating the machines means elminating vast sums of money from annual budgets, which means no more desks, books, science equipment etc. Whose going to replace those sums, which often run in the $100s of thousands of dollars? The government? I don't think so.
MacDonald's Chairty record certainly isn't on the same scale as Coke's, and BK's is practically non-existent. However, the Ronald McDonald House is another charity organization worldwide that provides hospice care for terminally ill children and their families. I don't know enough about McDonald's charity programmes to really be able to say much more on the subject, perhaps someone else can enlighten us?
As far as saying that these companies are throwing their propaganda all around the world, I'm more concerned about the US Army, the US Govt, and CNN doing that. At least (to my knowledge) McDonald's & Coca-cola don't run "news" websites, papers, & radio stations that pose as being "unbiased" journalism when the reality is they are being operated by the US Army.
AlexD, good for you for boycotting, that's fine, but the fact of the matter is these "Capitalist franchises" for all their disgusting warping of the industries in the US etc, actually pour money to developing countries and run some programmes that I grudgingly have to say are doing some good.
Just to rile you even further: the first Kosher McDonald's outside of Israel recently opened. In which country? Right here in Argentina - at Abasto Shopping.
 
#4
The US government and US multinationals are two sides of the same coin. The government is little more than a front for corporate interests today.
I'm not sure the world needs any more coca-colonisation. A caffeinated and sugary drink of meretricious worth.
That Coca-Cola puts a bit of its profits back into charitable causes has tears springing to my eyes. What fine people. I'm sure the public relations impact of these activities could not be further from their minds.
That many US schools in dire financial straits have agreed to let Coke and Pepsi machines be installed on their premises for a cut of the take is a symptom of the direction unfettered capitalism takes: public squalor and private luxury. Tax cuts for the super-rich and jeez, not enough money for public schools. Why stop with Coke and Pepsi? Let Philip Morris install some cigarette machines; I'm sure they'll be happy to give a fraction to obliging schools. And a small percentage to some well-publicised charities.
The point is that Coca-Cola and Pepsi are money-making enterprises whose prime motive isn't altruism. They make profits by selling meretricious products. Does Argentina need this kind of rubbish? That they give some of this money back in well-publicised charitable donations doesn't change this essential fact.
By the way, I forgot one more benefit of Coke and Pepsi: they doubtless provide cartoneros with some extra work.
 
#5
I am also amazed at the popularity of American fast food outlets in BA.As an American, I don't eat in those places in the US or abroad. Why so popular?The convenience perhaps. There aren't that many places in BA where you can get fast food pronto and sit down in a large space, other than some mall food courts and some pizza places. Mostly in BA, aside from takeout, eating is a bigger deal and takes longer, and maybe the modern reality of a faster pace of life is feeding this habit.The "glamour" of American life. Maybe this is a cheap way to experience being what people think is being American. Kind of like that fake Europe at Disney.
I must concede that lots of people actually LIKE the food! As far as the capitalist stuff, I think there are lots of home grown Argentinian capitalist operations. Whats to stop them from starting burger joints?
 
#6
"Fullmettlejaquette" said:
The convenience perhaps. There aren't that many places in BA where you can get fast food pronto and sit down in a large space, other than some mall food courts and some pizza places. Mostly in BA, aside from takeout, eating is a bigger deal and takes longer, and maybe the modern reality of a faster pace of life is feeding this habit.
I honestly don't know. Eating out in BsAs is primarily a social event, and speed is not a priority, in my humble judgement. For sure, cost advantages aren't there, as AlexD pointed out. I've seen a lot of people eating ice cream, but I know these restaurants can't survive off these sales exclusively.
The "glamour" of American life. Maybe this is a cheap way to experience being what people think is being American. Kind of like that fake Europe at Disney.
I guess. I don't see any other rationale.
As far as the capitalist stuff, I think there are lots of home grown Argentinian capitalist operations. Whats to stop them from starting burger joints?
No comparison. McDonald's and the golden arches are universally recognised symbols in our post-modern age. You could show the golden arches or the Coke logo to an African bushman and he'd recognise them. Furthermore, there's a consistency to American junk food the Argentines would have a hard time emulating: when you buy a Big Mac, you know exactly what kind of rubbish you're buying. American fast food franchising is a science: foot count, demographic analysis, traffic count, and so on. Logistics, advertising, and customer service are exactly calculated. Long-term contracts are set up with suppliers, at bargain-basement prices (because of sheer volume). There are reasons why American brands have become global. The product may be garbage, but the business is conducted on a rationally calculated basis the Argentines -- or most other people -- can't presently match. Oh, and I'm forgetting, each restaurant has serious money invested in it. Typically a few hundered thousand dollars for each outlet, sometimes even more than a million. Finally, US companies have a more long-term view than an Argentine entrepreneur can afford to have. US companies are willing to countenance low or even zero returns in a country just to establish a presence there. An Argentine with a couple million US dollars can scarcely afford such an indulgence.





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#7
Fair enough.Yes, of course, McDonalds is a monolith and they have crappy food. But last time I checked, nobody forced anyone to eat there. I certainly don't!And I don't totally agree with you that local companies can't compete. There is a local coffee chain in the Philippines that is growing fast based on the concept of providing the exact same experience and quality as Starbucks (which isn't that hard to do) and offering it for about half the cost. This is also easy to do because of labor costs there and the greed of Starbucks in not adjusting their prices for local markets, in other words a 5 dollar latte costs the same in New York and Manila.
 
#8
"Fullmettlejaquette" said:
But last time I checked, nobody forced anyone to eat there. I certainly don't!
Sure. But as I indicated, I thought your explanation -- the siren song of American life -- the only plausible one I could think of. There's no coercion as you point out. But there doesn't need to be. Recognition of global brands -- which is maintained by advertising and consistent (bad) quality -- is enough. It's difficult to match the financial, marketing, and brand name clout of global brands. There are local brands of soft drinks in Argentina, but which are the major sellers? The American brands. Probably the same for cigarettes. The same for software. The same for running shoes. And to some limited extent, the same holds for food. Yet local Argentine food is so good I can't understand how a global brand like McDonald's can make any inroads: there's no comparison between a grilled Argentine steak and a McRubbish quarter-pounder, made with God knows what kind of meat and chockful of saturated fats.
And I don't totally agree with you that local companies can't compete. There is a local coffee chain in the Philippines that is growing fast based on the concept of providing the exact same experience and quality as Starbucks (which isn't that hard to do) and offering it for about half the cost. This is also easy to do because of labor costs there and the greed of Starbucks in not adjusting their prices for local markets, in other words a 5 dollar latte costs the same in New York and Manila.
Not a fair comparison.Coffee shops don't (yet) have the same global brand appeal fast food does. Start-up costs are a fraction of those of fast-food.. Coffee shops are meant for the relatively well-to-do so competing on cost advantages (i.e. from bulk buying) isn't so crucial. And the level of organisation is vastly simpler than that of a fast-food joint, which is a mini-production line, a small factory.
American fast food is toxic. Just as governments the world over have stepped in to curb cigarette selling and advertising (though no-one is forcing you to smoke), so to should they step in to curb the advertising and selling of over-priced and noxious American junk food.
Strange indeed is the phenomenon of a populist and generally anti-US government that does nothing to curtail the coca-colonisation of its neck of the woods.
 
#9
OK, I'll bite but I probably shouldn't.It seems like we are talking politics here, and not so much fast food, not that they aren't related.I agree with you McDonalds and most fast food sell toxic food. However, face it, eating large fatty steaks everyday as well as pizzas, pastas, and rich Italian ice cream isn't a health food program either.It pains me that people throughout the world think American food equals McDonalds or American film culture equals violent blockbuster. Granted all that, I personally have left wing politics but am also pro capitalism and pro personal freedom. I think socialism just doesn't work. I know it wouldn't work for me. Personally, I live for gourmet food. Have you had a gander at the official mandated menus of eastern European nations before they became more westernized?
If the worlds masses are so stupid as to fall for the McDonalds image, that is their business. Who am I or you to tell them what they like or that they are stupid and have bad taste, even if that is what we think? Regarding Argentina, if you aren't Argentinian, I think your opinion counts for nothing, I personally would like any country less that tries to control its population in the way you are suggesting. For example, the way China is censoring the internet sites their people can read is despicable.
And I also disagree with you about Starbucks. They hope to take over the coffee world the way McDonalds has taken over the burger world, and they are well on their way.
 
#10
"Fullmettlejaquette" said:
It seems like we are talking politics here, and not so much fast food, not that they aren't related.
Sure, guilty as charged. I'm doing my bit to put some life into this forum. A lot of the posts here are so insipid -- where to get good coffee from, how to get laid (posted a couple of months back) -- that I despair.
I agree with you McDonalds and most fast food sell toxic food. However, face it, eating large fatty steaks everyday as well as pizzas, pastas, and rich Italian ice cream isn't a health food program either.
Ordinarily I'd agree with you. But in the four weeks I was in BsAs, I must have shed twelve pounds without trying. When I look at the waistlines of Argentines and compare them with those of the monstrous and grotesquely obese bodies of Americans in my neck of the woods (Minneapolis), I'm struck by the contrast. Now granted, the North European physique differs from the Mediterranean physique (it's stockier), yet still I feel that diet has a major part to play. 300 pounds here is nothing unusual. Compare that with the lissome frames in Buenos Aires.
It pains me that people throughout the world think American food equals McDonalds or American film culture equals violent blockbuster.
But -- ahem -- isn't there an element of truth in these exaggerations?
Granted all that, I personally have left wing politics but am also pro capitalism and pro personal freedom. I think socialism just doesn't work.
I don't see how left-wing politics can be reconciled with a pro-capitalistic outlook. A word of elaboration, perhaps?
If the worlds masses are so stupid as to fall for the McDonalds image, that is their business. Who am I or you to tell them what they like or that they are stupid and have bad taste, even if that is what we think?
But why stop there? Same argument surely holds for cigarettes as well? Should the state not step in to curb cigarette advertising and marketing to teens? McDonald's is doing exactly the same: it targets the young to make them fast-food junkies, and it puts addictive additives in the food. Hell, why stop there? Legalise heroin selling and marketing as well. Surely that's the logical end result of no-holds-barred laissez-faire capitalism?
A good book came out recently -- I blush to give the title to one of your erudition -- titled, "Supersize This." The author ate nothing but McDonalds for one month. He put on 26 pounds; his blood pressure went throught the roof; he developed the beginnings of liver disease. There should be a government health warning on McDonald's wrappers: Fast Food Kills.
Regarding Argentina, if you aren't Argentinian, I think your opinion counts for nothing, I personally would like any country less that tries to control its population in the way you are suggesting. For example, the way China is censoring the internet sites their people can read is despicable.
My opinion counts for nothing regardless of where I reside. This discussion is just to inject some life into this lacklustre forum and to show the outside world that forum participants can hold a discussion on something other than their palates and libidos. :)
Surely internet censoring is a different kettle of fish from curtailing the advertising and sales of a malignant American junk-food corporation, no? I'm sure McDonald's would love to hide behind the banner of freedom and democracy (and I'm sure Coke and a Big Mac is what Shrub means when he says, "freedom and democracy."), but need we be deceived by such disingenuous arguments? This is the kind of dishonest reasoning one finds in the books and articles of that NYT nincompoop, Thomas Friedman (e.g. The Lexus and the Olive Tree).