Toward the very end of chapter 1 of Fast Food Nation: The Dark Side of the All American Meal, how is the vision of the fast food restaurant entrepreneurs reflected in the Carl N. Karcher's quote "I...
Toward the very end of chapter 1 of Fast Food Nation: The Dark Side of the All American Meal, how is the vision of the fast food restaurant entrepreneurs reflected in the Carl N. Karcher's quote "I believe in progress"?
The vision of fast food restaurant entrepreneurs is predicated on a free market model that provides unlimited opportunity to all. Since many of these entrepreneurs came from indigent backgrounds, progress was defined by material success. Essentially, progress was equated to tangible, material accomplishments, whether those came in the form of bigger restaurants, higher stock prices, or revolutionary food preparation systems.
Entrepreneurs like Carl Karcher, Richard and Maurice McDonald, Glen Bell Jr., and Harland Sanders observed the economic and political developments of their time and profited from them. During World War II and the two succeeding decades, the United States government increased defense spending in California. It spent billions to build "airplane factories and steel mills, military bases and port facilities." With more workers and defense businesses flooding the region, Carl's Drive-in Barbecue flourished.
It was during this period of phenomenal economic growth that Walt Disney built California's Disneyland, and Robert Schuller introduced the nation's first drive-in church. The McDonald brothers cashed in on the new "drive-in" phenomenon in California and the rest of America by pioneering the nation's first commercial, assembly-line food preparation system. They launched what we call the fast food industry today and transformed how Americans and the global community approached commercially-prepared food. The brothers also introduced customers to another new paradigm in restaurant dining: the self-service system.
In the process of becoming wealthy, the McDonald brothers succeeded in modifying national and global tastes as well as changing the face of the restaurant industry. The fast food entrepreneurs saw these changes as progress. The small-scale, agricultural, homestead model (the one that kept most of them impoverished) was fast becoming obsolete. The entrepreneurs saw the growth of fast food restaurants, strip malls, and wealthy suburbs as progress.
Karcher's quote at the end of the first chapter in Schlosser's work suggests that the fast food industrialists believe in only one direction: forward.
The question that precedes Karcher's quote asks about potential mourning for the past. Schlosser asks Karcher if he missed the "old Anaheim" that featured "ranches and citrus groves." Even with the "fast food restaurants, subdivisions, and strip malls" that comprise the modern vision of the city, Karcher responds that he "could not be happier" because he believes in progress. He considers the vision of a world dominated with his fast food restaurants as a "mark of success."
For fast food entrepreneurs, creating a world in their own image is a similar "mark of success." The worldwide proliferation of fast food restaurants is representative of progress. Karcher's quote represents how there is little in the way of reflection in the fast food industrial vision. There is no mourning for the past. There is an unwillingness to embrace anything that lies outside of their "mark of success." Anything that stands in the way of advancement is deemed an obstacle. In this light, Karcher's quote underscores how progress is seen as the ultimate bottom line for fast food entrepreneurs.
Carl Karcher, the entrepreneur who started the chain of Carl's Jr. restaurants, believes that he has made progress when he looks out at Anaheim, California, and sees strip malls and fast-food restaurants. When he was growing up, this part of California was dotted with ranches, gravel roads, and citrus groves. He grew up on a rural farm without electricity or running water. To him, progress means paved roads and the efficiency and convenience, not to mention the entrepreneurial money-making possibilities, of fast-food restaurants and everything they entail, including cars, traffic, and the paving over of nature.
To fast-food entrepreneurs, success is the growth of more restaurants and their supporting infrastructure of cars. They do not generally care about the destruction of the environment or the decline of individuality or small businesses, as their mark of progress is building restaurants that offer economies of scale, efficiency, and reliability.