OPINION: McDonald’s does not deserve its awful reputation


I am no fortune teller, but I am going to make a prediction: if you are reading this, you have eaten at a McDonald’s at least once in your life.

After all, how can you avoid it? According to the McDonald’s corporate website, they are the single largest food service company in the world, with over 36,000 locations worldwide. Beautiful, historically important cities like Paris have a McDonald’s, along with Tokyo, Stockholm and even Cairo.

Just imagine, there are people at this very moment who are eating a Big Mac within full view of the Eiffel Tower or the Great Pyramid of Giza. That is a little bit terrifying.

Despite its ubiquitous worldwide popularity, McDonald’s has a bad reputation, at least here in the United States. It is the frequent butt of jokes about its low quality food, questionable ingredients and shady business practices. In fact, referring to a dead-end occupation as a “McJob” is so common that the word was added to the Oxford English Dictionary.

While McDonald’s is in many ways the perfect example of everything wrong with corporate America, I still think it gets an undeserved bad rap. Honestly, it is probably one of my least favorite fast food restaurants, but I do not think it has earned the disproportionate amount of hate it gets compared to other chain restaurants.

For starters, the reason anyone goes to a restaurant is because they want to buy food. Sure, the McNuggets and whatnot feel a little more like molded plastic than actual food sometimes, but the appeal is that you get what you pay for.

For example, McDonald’s offers two cheeseburgers for $2, or 20 chicken nuggets for $5, in addition to lots of other low-price value meals. I am sure the many coffee addicts at Kansas State University can appreciate their 90-cent coffee cups, too.

McDonald’s has cornered the market on cheap comfort food. Their menu is mostly American, with few surprises no matter where on Earth you find it. Although the food is not exactly good, it is good enough.

Having any food at all is better than going hungry, and for people with low income (like, say, college students), sometimes anything will do. Not many restaurants would let you feed two people with a five dollar bill, and it has been a real lifesaver for me in the past.

Yes, you could get a better meal elsewhere, but having such a cheap alternative during financial emergencies is an extremely underrated part of what makes McDonald’s so enduringly popular. If I skipped eating dinner and I want a salad at 9 p.m. with no qualms about the quality of its ingredients, McDonald’s has me covered.

If you ask me, anyone expecting to get a truly great meal at a fast food restaurant is setting themselves up for disappointment anyway. Everything a chain restaurant serves is more like junk food at the end of the day, but McDonald’s is one of the only restaurants that actually prices its junk accordingly.

It is unfortunate that McDonald’s gets its low prices by giving its employees low wages, but I would make an argument similar to my previous one and say that having a job at McDonald’s is still better than unemployment.

I hate unrestricted capitalism as much as any English major could, but I know lots of people who currently have or previously had “McJobs” at some point. Hardly any of them enjoy cooking or waitressing, but even the most agonizing workdays still helped net them a paycheck to stay afloat during hard times.

Ultimately, while the suits who run McDonald’s have a lot of sins to answer for, it still has a place in the world as a restaurant that can provide a bare minimum of necessities for the young and disenfranchised, both in front of and behind the counter.

McDonald’s is not great in any regard, but neither is any other fast food restaurant. With no surprises on the menu and prices that cannot be beaten, I think it is obvious why the restaurant shows no signs of going away.

Kyle Hampel is a junior in English. The views and opinions expressed in this column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the Collegian. Please send comments to opinion@kstatecollegian.com.

Those words you just read were written by me, Kyle Hampel. I am a 2019 graduate in English. I have strong feelings about barbeque pizza and the Oxford comma. I am a former copy chief, community editor, feature editor, designer and deputy multimedia editor. Beloit, Kansas, is proud to call me their own, along with several other towns I've lived in that aren't as special to me.