Burgers for Britain: A Cultural Geography of McDonald's UK

By DeBres, Karen | Journal of Cultural Geography, Spring-Summer 2005 | Go to article overview

Burgers for Britain: A Cultural Geography of McDonald's UK


DeBres, Karen, Journal of Cultural Geography


The geography of food has recently come out of the pantry.--Richard Pillsbury, No Foreign Food.

ABSTRACT. McDonald's restaurants, which are often described as a unilateral symbol of American imperialism, have been a presence in British high streets since the 1970s. In fact, the official company history says that McDonald's does not modify its way of doing business to adapt to foreign cultures, but changes local cultures to meet its own needs. How successful has this approach been in Britain, which has a "special relationship" with the United States? Using a variety of sources, this study examines the material landscape of McDonald's, first in the United States and then in the United Kingdom. This paper summarizes the growth and development of the company from the 1970s to the early twenty-first century, and then focuses on the exteriors, interiors and restaurant menus of McDonald's UK. The creation of a two-tiered system of restaurant exteriors and interiors is discussed. Although the chain now has over a thousand outlets in Britain and is a familiar part of the British downtown streetscape, it is still strongly identified with the Americanization of Britain.

INTRODUCTION

Tourists walking up London's Charing Cross Road in summer 2003 could see a book with a familiar logo prominently displayed in a Muslim bookshop window. The cover of this book, Globalization, Americanization and the British Muslim Identity, showed children in Muslim dress standing across from a McDonald's restaurant. The children were part of a black and white photograph, but the McDonald's sign was in color, drawing the reader's eye toward its well known red and gold design (Ameli 2002). Today McDonald's is an easily invoked metaphor for America's expanding global influence (see for example Kincheloe 2002 and Schlosser 2002). The terms "McWorld" and "McDonaldization" express this Americanization of global culture (Barber 2001; Inglehart and Baker 2002; Ritzer 2000; Ritzer 2002). Since 1986, The Economist has published an annual "Big Mac Index" based on the theory of purchasing power parity.

This interest in McDonald's reflects the company's global reach. By 2001 McDonald's total sales reached $40 billion, with 28,700 outlets in 120 countries (The Times, February 1, 2001). Globalization, however, does not mean complete homogenization. While McDonald's has been described as "erasing the differences between this place and that place" (Smart 1994, 172), if one looks more closely, it is clear that the famous golden arches represent different things in different places. (1)

Despite all of these interpretations, one common theme is the challenge posed by McDonald's and by other multinationals to national and cultural identity, a topic that is also a popular research area in cultural geography today (see for example Mitchell 2000). As Don Mitchell suggests, nation, nationalism, and cultural identity are never anywhere fixed but are always contested (Mitchell 2000). Indeed, the proliferation of American-based fast food restaurants outside the United States has a multitude of effects, far too many to discuss in one brief paper. The focus here is upon the development, growth and diffusion of McDonald's restaurants in the United Kingdom, and the material culture created by McDonald's as exemplified in its buildings and menus. Structures are traditionally used in cultural geography to decipher cultural trends and patterns, and recently food and its consumption have also been a source of study (see for example Bell and Valentine 1997), including studies on the cultural landscapes of food. Why focus upon McDonald's UK? First, because American culture itself, according to Zelinsky, is derived "in all essentials from that of Northwest Europe and most particularly, of Great Britain" (Zelinsky 1992, 5). For much of American history, large sections of the American elite and middle classes have copied or modified British styles in literature, domestic architecture, men's fashion, and garden design (see for example Tunnard and Reed 1955; Furnas 1969). …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Burgers for Britain: A Cultural Geography of McDonald's UK
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Author Advanced search

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.