Friday, February 20, 2009

The Golden Arches

This goes without saying (but I’m going to say it anyway…) that a McDonald’s restaurant can be found the world over, and Asunción is no exception. There is one about 7 blocks from our homestay and another one a short distance from our apartment. When I was in Acapulco, Méxio in 2002, I saw a McDonald’s with a plaque that stated that that particular restaurant was the 15,000th McDonald’s in the world. I wonder what numbers the two in Asunción are?

I know that every restaurant must follow the same guidelines and protocol designated by the home base in Oak Brook, Illinois. Each building’s design must be roughly the same shape and size, the menus need to look similar, the same foods must be offered, the packaging needs to be uniform. It is the corporation’s intention that every time someone walks into a McDonald’s, no matter where that person is in the world, that he or she feels like it’s his or her hometown McDonald’s. Everything is planned to meet such a high standard of uniformity that even the smells are the same. In fact, every time Cat and I pass by our neighborhood McDonald’s on our daily walk, we catch a whiff of that unmistakable McDonald’s french fry smell. If you happen to like Mickey D fries, which we do, then you are in luck. Although we haven’t ventured into a McDonald’s yet, we plan on doing so when we become nostalgic for some greasy, fat laden, good, old-fashioned American fast food.

Apart from the ubiquitous Golden Arches and red and yellow colors there are three things I noticed about Asunción McDonald’s that might be difficult to find in the Sates. The first relates more to nomenclature than it does a radical departure from the standard restaurant. And that is the drive thru, or as it’s referred to in Paraguay, the auto-mac—a rather clever translation that works in any language.

The second difference is the Mcdonald’s here come with outdoor patios where you can enjoy your quarter pounder amidst the hustle-and-bustle of everyday Asunción life. And, despite the summer heat and humidity, many patrons take advantage of the outdoor seating.

The third, and I think most intriguing, difference is the McEntrega, or delivery. Entregar means ‘to give’ or ‘to hand over’. Therefore, the delivery system is quite literally handing over the meal. That’s right. If a ‘mac attack’ hits you just as your favorite program is starting, you don’t have to worry. Just call your local McDonald’s and have it delivered. However, most people take advantage of McEntrega because they do not have cars themselves. In the parking lot, you will find anywhere from three to 10 scooters equipped with what look like oversized pizza delivery boxes strapped to the back. The concept must be working because every time Cat and I walk past a McDonald’s we see a McEntrega scooter either coming or going. I cannot attest to the freshness or quality of the delivery service but I must admit that I am intrigued and am half-tempted to try it one of these days.

Ray Croc was once asked how he liked the hamburger business. He replied that he wasn’t in the hamburger business at all. Puzzled, the interviewer then asked him what business he was in, to which Mr. Croc replied that he was in the real estate business. This philosophy certainly holds true in Asunción where, even with the addition of added bonuses like a delivery service and outdoor patio, every McDonald’s restaurant is situated in a prime real estate location.

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