The fast food industry, and McDonald’s in particular, have come to be regarded as emblematic of a new global culture (Leidner, 2002, pg 8). McDonald’s operates in almost the same way wherever its stores are located. Ray Kroc, the founder of McDonald’s, emphasized that a standardized approach to food production and customer service is the key to commercial success (Love, 1995 p114). Some argue that McDonald’s is the reason there is a fast food industry (Love, 1995 p25-27).
In Singapore, although McDonald’s was not the first American-styled fast food restaurant to establish operations, their arrival has paved the way in developing the modern fast food industry and is currently the market leader. In this essay, McDonald’s will be used as an exemplar to examine the work and employment relations in the fast food industry, particularly Singapore, Germany and the United States.
Franchising is prevalent in the fast food industry as there is minimal risk in setting up a small business. Franchisees are separate legal entities and can hire their own employees at their own discretion. To ensure that outlets across the country maintain the same standards, the franchising strategy of McDonald’s requires that franchisees implement operating principles detailed in a 600 page procedures manual and used products and equipments from company approved distributors. The specificity of detailing work routine is remarkable. For instance, workers are instructed in the exact arm movement when salting a batch of fries in McDonald’s in Singapore and the States. Therefore, consistency of food standard is maintained even though there are numerous franchises across the countries.
Technology plays an important role in standardizing the work of fast food crew and reducing the amount of skill and prudence required of workers. Fast food companies, achieved this through the use of equipment and machinery, ranging from the processes of preparation, cooking and serving of the food right up to the systems of ordering of stocks, staff planning and training. For example, McDonald’s in Singapore and the United States have grills and fry vats specially designed with lights and buzzers to tell workers when to proceed with their next step in their routines. Frozen food products are used such that they need only be heated, rehydrated or assembled. Cash registers are computerized so that workers do not need to memorize the prices of the food items. Computerized systems have also standardized managerial work such as scheduling work shifts and monitoring sales and inventory. As evident above, by optimizing work processes through the use of technology, uniformity of food and service can be achieved, maximizing cost efficiencies.
Interactions between customers and crews are standardized to ensure that customers have a pleasant experience. Crews are expected to greet the customer with a friendly smile, using scripted lines while maintaining eye contact. Customer’s behaviors are also standardized. The awareness and readiness of customers to perform their part of the routine accounts for the smooth functioning of the outlet. They are expected to order promptly and do their fair share of the work known as self service, for example bringing their own food to the table. This is known as ‘work transfer’: shifting work that might be done by paid employees to other people (Glazer, 1993). These standard practices can be seen in McDonald’s in Singapore and the States.
Ray Kroc believed that standardization maximizes cost efficiencies, thereby contributing to the extreme standardization of work in today’s...