QSRs

The community of Tofino, British Columbia  is considering a ban on fast-food franchises and chain restaurants including Tim Hortons, Starbucks and the usual cast of characters.

In 2008 Los Angeles, California banned new fast food franchises from being built in South LA. This is a seriously poverty-stricken area of the city and they figured taking away the McDonald’s would help improve the health of the citizens.

A lot of school boards have banned all forms of junk food from being sold on school property. Others have lobbied to have fast-food restaurants banned from the vicinity of schools or even to have fast-food advertisements banned from school areas and from television during children’s programs.

Meanwhile, the fast-food industry, or QSRs (Quick Service Restaurants) as they’re called within the industry, is growing by leaps and bounds.

McDonald’s is located in 126 countries on 6 continents and operates over 31,000 restaurants worldwide. The McDonald’s that opened in Moscow in 1990 is the busiest in the world.

You can get a Big Mac almost anywhere these days. They’re called  Maharaja Mac in India; Croque McDo in France, and McFiesta in Guatemala.

The largest McDonald’s in the world is in Beijing.

Burger King has more than 11,100 restaurants in more than 65 countries. KFC is located in 25 countries. Subway has almost 40,000 restaurants in 90 countries. Pizza Hut is in 97 countries, with 100 locations in China. Even Taco Bell has 278 restaurants in 12 countries other than the US.

Fast food has been around since Ancient Rome. A lot of people didn’t have facilities for cooking back then, so on almost every street corner were stands that sold bread soaked in wine.

They’ve been flogging street food like this all over the world for ages — from East Indian noodle shops to Middle Eastern falafel joints to West African kebob carts.

Because most QSR food is meat-centered, (also fat and salt-centered) I don’t often eat it. I will occasionally have a veggie burger at Harvey’s – but never their horrible salt-saturated “crispy” fries.  Harvey’s really has the only palatable fast food veggie burger. They used to have good fries, too, but then they switched to these nasty fries instead.

There are other fast-food veggie burgers, but they’re all pretty bad. I have no idea what that thing is they sell at A&W, for instance. It’s a hard dry disc with slippery brown chunks in it, drowned in slimy white stuff and held together by a small stale bun.  They call it a Swiss Veggie Deluxe for some reason.

So, If I want to grab some quick lunch on a Saturday it might be a Harvey’s burger or some pad thai from Thai Express. But really, that’s about it.

I can’t even remember the last time I set foot in a Wendy’s or a Burger King and I certainly haven’t been in a KFC since long before they changed their name to initials. I think I’ve been to Starbucks once in my life.

But I know plenty of people whose day isn’t complete without a coffee from Starbucks or Tim Hortons or who swear by the McDonald’s McBreakfast McSandwich or whatever it’s called or who have pizza night from Domino’s every Friday.

Is there any QSR you visit on a regular basis? Are there any you would miss if they decided to ban them all? Would you like to see a revival of the wine-soaked bread stand? I think I could get hooked on that one.

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PS: I’m not taking a laptop, but will do my best to find some sort of internets over the next week to perhaps combine a couple of rest stops with some blog updates. But if that doesn’t pan out, I will be back the following week with stories of my travels. Maybe even with some photos if all goes well. Meanwhile, please talk amongst yourselves.

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40 responses to “QSRs

  1. Don’t worry about blogging while in Paris. Go, have fun, and collect some good experiences to blog about when you come home.

  2. Oublie la restauration rapide et le blogue – va t’amuser à Paris avec XUP Jr! Bon voyage! xo

    (translation: Forget fast food and the blog – go have fun in Paris with XUP Jr! Have a great trip!)

  3. I occasionally have a craving for a hamburger from MacDonald’s and get one. The meat actually seems to taste better here in France. I should be having one of their salads but never seem to order one.

  4. My Sweetie grabs us some Taco Bell about once every two or three weeks for Saturday lunch and we pick up KFC maybe once every six weeks. I like their grilled chicken. I could live without the others and I’ve never set foot in a Starbucks, although I drink the cold bottled ones at home (almost 1 per day, but not quite). I could probably go 6 months or more between burgers and prefer the ones I grill outdoors. I just wonder what their definition of these places would be for closing these things down. What about sub and sandwich shops? I love a good sandwich.

    Jot down a few notes (that’s what I do every year on my beach trip so I don’t forget something specific) but otherwise, just forget about us and have fun.

  5. If you want to think about eating healthy I highly recommend that you read “The Omnivores Dilemma” and then read “In Defense of Food” both of which are written by Michael Pollan. Reading these books will really change the way you think about eating.

    Read The Omnivores Dilemma first and then In Defense of food.

    I very rarely eat fast food as it is a really fast way to getting fat and besides I find that it doesn’t really taste all that great in any case plus the serving sizes are way too large.

  6. The only time I stop at a fast food place would be while on a short road trip. And it takes me longer to order than to eat as I’m not familiar with the offerings and try to choose something that seems tasty. I usually lose and wished I’d just found a sit down restaurant/truck stop. I’ve never understood why anyone would want to eat at McD or BK or Wendy’s when they are travelling in a foreign country.
    I’m expecting great tales of your gastronomic experience in Paris. Bon Appétit! Santé.

  7. I remember WAY back when I thought eating at a QSR was “going out for dinner”. Today, eating at a QSR is a last resort. I had a chicken wrap at Tim Horton’s about a month ago, but only because I was really hungry and in a time crunch situation (eat or pass out).
    About 6 months ago I got serious about eating better and as a result I ended up removing 30 lbs of fat from my pudgy self. Today I look in the mirror and think “Wow, you look good.” Bending over to tie my shoes is effortless.
    All I did was remove QSR type food from my diet. Processed foods RARELY go past my lips any more. I might eat a salad at Wendy’s if I was stuck, they have one I like, but I forget the name of it. It has mandarin orange slices and shaved almonds along with the pile of vegetables.
    I also discovered raw fruit and vegetables taste really good. Somehow I had forgotten about that.

  8. I with PinkLea.

    As much as we love to read you…F*** the blog, unplug yourself from the grid, and and go have fun on your vacation.

    We’ll be here when you get back.

    PS. As much as it’s bad for me, as much as I should eat healthier, as much as it’s the corporate Anti-Christ, God help me, I still love McD’s.

  9. Fast food is not a big thing in our home. The boys (16&24) much prefer home cooked meals and think they just miraculously appear if they wait long enough.
    Last night we ordered Swiss Chalet because our kitchen is undergoing construction and all I heard were complaints about how the chicken we normally have is so much better. While I love the fact that they like my cooking I kinda wish I could order take-out more frequently without feeling like the mother from hell.

  10. Dr. Monkey – If you insist! I’m sure we’ll have to hit an internet café somewhere along the line though – there’s only so much electronic-free living my daughter can take.

    Pinklea – Merci! Merci!

    Linda – I know what you mean. Every once in a while there’s nothing better than a fast food burger.

    Geewits – I’m taking a small notebook for exactly that reason, because I WILL forget stuff. I think when they’re talking about banning fast food places they have to leave the ones that are already there, but just won’t give permission for any new ones to move in or for any old ones to be replaced if they leave.

    Sean – I’ve read bits from the Omnivores Dilemma even though I’m not an omnivore. And good for you for sticking to real food. Is there a lot of fast food in Korea? Will it be harder to avoid in Canada?

    Violetsky – I guess there is a certain “kitch” factor to having McDonald’s in Paris. I’m pretty sure we’ll be able to find a lot of good things to eat there without having to resort to the McDo.

    OCDriver – Well good for your bad-assed self! That’s quite a testimonial – 30 pounds just from fast food. Were you eating it often?

    Friar – I will pray to god in France (where god is more of a gourmet) to rid you of the evil obsession with McDonald’s. I hope it works. I think if it’s a once in a blue moon thing it’s not so bad. Thanks for your good wishes.

    Salayna – Maybe your boys should learn to do some cooking. They’re old enough and if they don’t learn now their future partners are going to come and beat you upside the head for mollycoddling them.

  11. You can’t get a Big Mac in Iceland. The company left last year (or the Icelandic franchise owners decided not to continue being a McDonalds): http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2009/oct/27/mcdonalds-iceland-reykjavik-franchise. One more reason I’d like to love to live there.

    I wouldn’t miss any of them. True, occasionally I do eat at Wendy’s when making the 401 trek between Ottawa and Toronto, but that’s about the only time. I would gladly pay more for food that hasn’t been processed to utter crap.

    I haven’t read the other comments, so I don’t know if anyone has suggested the film Food Inc., but you should definitely check it out. Same with any of Michael Pollan’s books.

  12. We only found a couple of internet cafes in Paris (although we didn’t look very hard for them) and while you could get email, that was about it. And the keyboards are different so when you type in English, the letters are all somewhere else. You see what I mean when you get there.

    As for fast food, I don’t normally go but while I was in Florida with the folks, we did stop at McDonald’s a couple of times because it was available and a known quantity. Likewise, my folks like the chain restaurants like Outback and Olive Garden so we ate there too. I had the salad at McDonald’s and was successful at getting veggie dishes at Olive Garden. Of course, the restrooms at McDonald’s were a big draw for me, as I like to stay hydrated which requires frequent pee stops. I don’t mind Starbucks. When I go, it’s usually just for the coffee and I usually order a plain latte which is just espresso and steamed milk as it should be.

    Which reminds me! When you are in France and order “un café svp” you will get an espresso. You have to be more specific if you want something else. “Un café Americano” will get you a regular sized cup. I was just grateful they use espresso based coffee everywhere, instead of having a pot sitting on a heating coil.

    Which reminds me! If you have a good map, then find your way over to Rue Cler. It is between Les Invalides and the Tour Eiffel mall and consists of lovely shops for everything one could want if one lived there, including a cafe where you can order “deux pour douze” as set out in Rick Steves guide to Paris (which guise by the way is also terrific). We went and had two breakfasts for 12 Euros (sounds expensive but it’s cheap!) and watched all the other, uncertain Americans coming in, clutching their Rick Steves guide books. We stayed at the Hotel Eber Mars right around the corner from Rue Cler so it was convenient for us. Since you are in the Marais, it could just be a place to walk when you are over in the Champs de Mars to look at the Tour Eiffel.

    I am envious and want to go too.

  13. I don’t eat at fast food restaurants much at all, or any other chain restaurant for that matter. Usually if we go to one it’s out of desperation or it’s because the person I’m with wants to go there.

    I’ll still eat the Harvey’s veggie burgers, even though I’m no longer vegetarian…it really is the best thing they serve. I like Lick’s veggie burgers, too. There used to be at least one Lick’s in Ottawa area, but I don’t know if there still is. They’re more prevalent in the GTA.

    We go to McDonald’s maybe once every couple of months, usually when we’re in a rush or traveling. I always get the fajita wraps, which are the most palatable things on the menu. I hate their burgers.

    I used to like Wendy’s burgers, but haven’t been so crazy about them the last couple of times I went. Can’t remember the last time I stepped foot in a Burger King.

  14. Have fun on your vacation.

    I do eat fast foods but from local merchants. It’s just as bad for me but I’m all about keeping local business alive. Even if it kills me..

  15. I wouldn’t miss any of the ones you mentioned. In fact anytime we do eat there (for example stranded in a train station and McD’s is the only option) we end up sick. My hyper sensitive punk actually has an allergic reaction to fast food.

    But I think the big giants are very different from non-franchise street food. If we have to eat something quick, there’s usually a bakery selling little pizzas on the side and it’s not too difficult to find fruit stands. But usually we’re not in that much of a hurry 😉

    Have a great trip!

  16. I do not equate McDonald’s with a street cart – one is vile and the other is — or can be — some of the best ethnic food you can get. The Mistah and I will get off the highway in New Haven and drive to Yale/New Haven hospital, just to get falafel at Mamoun’s food cart. Yum.

  17. I was in Mumbai when the McD opened there. I always wondered what was on the menu for the 30,000 people lined up around the block 4 times. Um, 80% of the country doesn’t eat cow! or any meat to that fact. when i travel i stay away from QSRs. there are so many other wonderful new things to try.

    the only time we hit McDs (affectionately known as Rotten Ronnie’s in our household) is on the way down the 401. The bean loves it. Who wouldn’t love a meal that comes with a crappy toy!

  18. XUP wrote:
    OCDriver – Well good for your bad-assed self! That’s quite a testimonial – 30 pounds just from fast food. Were you eating it often?”
    =======================
    It was not so much actually eating QSR food every day, more the mental attitude which would have me think QSR food was an acceptable food source.

    The same mentality had me eating all manner of processed foods. I started looking at the calorie content of everything I ate. I was also looking for the nutrition value. My new approach was to eat high nutrition with the lowest possible calorie content.

    For example : 1 egg = 2 whole grain crackers = 70 calories, however the nutrition value of the egg is much higher and it is also more filling. I started checking everything I ate, AND I also considered how many calories I actually needed to eat each day.

    Over eating was very easy when I didn’t know many calories I was eating. It was easy to add an extra snack just because I would enjoy eating it. Pretty much any ready to eat food will taste great, but the nutrition content will be low and the calorie content will be high. The QSR food is generally very high in calories so it just fell off the menu. 🙂

    Another example: spaghetti sauce contains a lot of sugar, thus high calorie content. I switched out the sauce for salsa. Higher nutrition and lower calorie content, and tastes great too. 🙂

    I stay away from foods like corn chips, potato chips, anything sweetened with corn syrup. I guess I now stay away from QSR food because I really don’t know the calorie content or what is actually in it since I didn’t make it myself.

    It was easy to loose the weight (fat). I started to exercise on a daily basis in exchange for eating something decadent every day. Usually that means dark chocolate. 🙂

  19. Meagan – No one has suggested Food Inc. , but someone has suggested Michael Pollan. Good for Iceland!

    Julia – Geeze Louise, Julia – NOW you send me all this information. I don’t drink coffee, so the coffee thing shouldn’t be an issue. Although I did sort of promise myself I had to try French coffee. Other people who don’t like coffee tell me they did like French coffee.

    MaryLynn – Yes! The Lick’s veggie burgers were pretty good. Lick’s moved out of Ottawa shortly after we moved in. They sell them frozen in grocery stores, but they don’t seem the same. They’re gigantic whereas the ones from the restaurants seemed to be a normal size.

    Glen – You’re a real trooper, Glen. And thanks for the good wishes.

    Christine – Thanks. We’ll practically be neighbours for a week! Street food can make you even sicker than fast-food, I find. At least fast-food places have some pretty strict hygiene rules they have to follow.

    Ellie – No, they’re not the same thing. You’re quite right. They can certainly taste better, but as I said to Christine, street food can also be kind of sketchy hygiene-wise.

    Smothermother – Seriously? 30,000 people lined up for food they can’t even eat? I like your nickname – Rotten Ronnie’s. And yes, it’s the crappy toys that keeps kids clamouring for McDonald’s. Crazy, eh?

    OC Driver – You can get the “nutritional” info on fast food online. The restaurants are also supposed to have them available if you ask. Still, you don’t need it. Eventually I’m sure you’ll just know what food is real and valuable and what’s just empty calories without having to inspect it in detail. High fructose corn syrup is extremely evil on many levels, by the way. Have you read up on that stuff?

  20. I have to admit I occasionally eat fast food but only when I am hungry and it’s on every block reminding me of the temptation. I am well aware how awful it is for me, and always regret my decision. An article in The Ottawa Citizen by Kate Jaimet on Tuesday talks about the link between health and our proximity to fast-food chains. It’s worth a read, http://www.ottawacitizen.com/health/Study+links+proximity+fast+food+health/2659061/story.html
    * Have fun in Paris!

  21. Back when I did some travelling, I also went to McDonald’s. (I still crave the taste of their fries and filet-o-fish, but am nevertheless over five years without stepping foot into a McDonald’s). In Austria, I was taken by their “McRecycling” carts, and in Beijing, I was taken partly by the fact that everything tasted exactly as it does here (the only difference was slightly smaller McFlurry containers)…

    But the strangest thing about one of the Beijing McDonald’s was how hyper-Americanized it was. There were trumpets and saxophones hanging on the walls, as well as posters and portraits of Britney Spears and Madonna. Another one was pretty small, and you just pointed to a printed menu on the counter for what you wanted.

    I still go to Harvey’s, and occasionally go to Wendy’s (though I’m never satisfied after eating Wendy’s food). At least Harvey’s uses real vegetables for their condiments, cut in-store, and some stores even use real potatoes for their fries. Weight gain, whenever it’s an issue for me, is a goal.

    Oh, and to answer your original question: I go for pho every week with some friends of mine. We’ve been going to the same place for over five years. I also eat out for lunch most days of the week (usually hitting up the local hot food buffet)

    – RG>

  22. I occasionally pick up a veggie burger at Burger King – it’s not great but it’s one of the rare options for me in fast food and once in a while it’s all I have time for. It bugs me, though, that it’s one of their most expensive items.

  23. nope. used to go when really hungover, but avoid those places now. three christmases ago i barfed after eating mcdonald’s and can’t shake that memory. i do love starbucks coffee and got there 1-2x a week. what i hate is how Mcdonald’s has wormed itself in the kids’ psyches, and they see this food as a special treat. about once every two weeks they get one of the kiddie meals, but it’s really about the cheap-ass toy. i do see tim horton’s as the healthy alternative when on the rode (but not that healthy).
    as an aside, as an experiment today when i did groceries i bought all organic meats/fruits/veggies. my grocery bill was $50 more than usual. eek!

  24. Laura – I’m surprised it’s even a temptation! Re: the article – that’s the same thing they were finding in South LA.

    Grouchy – I didn’t know you were such a world traveler. You’ll have to regale us with some tales one day. Which is your usual pho hang-out? Do you think it has the best pho in town? And this is really a pho town, isn’t it? I think if Ottawa does anything well cuisine-wise, it’s Vietnamese.

    SAW – You don’t have a Harvey’s? They’re actually almost like food. The Burger King veggie seems more like an afterthought.

    Meanie – Yes, healthy food is more expensive, but in my view there is nothing that’s worth spending money on more than the stuff that keeps your body going and going well.

    Robin – Thanks Robin. I see it took me leaving the country to get a comment out of you again.

  25. XUP – I was a world-traveller, to an extent. The pho place has an adequate price, selection, and accommodation for our group’s needs. Not necessarily the best pho, but certainly enough variety to keep us coming back.

    We have lots of pho places because of the significant Vietnamese population, same for Shawarma places and the Lebanese population.

    Have fun on your trip. Or don’t. Whatever’s your pleasure.

    – RG>

  26. Wow…some commenters here must have sore arms, from patting themselves on the back for eating right and staying away from greasy fast-food hamburgers.

    Congratulations, you win.

    But whether or not you like to admit it..there is a signficant portion of us on the planet who LIKE McDonalds.

    Y’all need to learn to accept that. 🙂

  27. REAL fries from fry trucks are my weakness, but I will also grab a Breakfast Bagel from McDo’s from time to time. And Subway rocks!
    It’s all about moderation. A little bit of crap won’t hurt ya now and then!
    Amuse-toi!

  28. Actually, I don’t think the government should be regulating whether or not we eat fast food. That’s the real point of your blog. Everyone has an opinion, and opinions can’t be regulated. I am so tired of the “nanny state” saying what you can and can’t do. (I do believe there should be laws about things like murder, and speeding, and stealing..you know, that kind). But the state should keep out of my life if I’m not hurting someone else. And I should be able to spend my money (what’s left after the government takes its share) however I want.

    Sorry, you hit a nerve here. And for the record I do agree that fast food is bad for you.

  29. No QSR for me any more, really. Quizno’s and Subway are the only places that qualify that I’ve been to since November, and then only sparingly.

    Prior to November that I was big on Harvey’s burgers and onion rings.

    If they decided to ban them all, however, I would actively protest against such an excessive, intrusive piece of legislation.

    Daily trivia:
    QSR is a radio-telegraphy shortcut that means “Shall I repeat on the calling frequency?”

  30. Grouchy – Thanks. I will definitely try.

    Friar – Nobody’s not accepting. Some people eat fast food, some people don’t. The people who do, I guess don’t like to brag about it as much as the people who don’t – that’s all. I think pretty much everybody eats some fast food sometimes.

    Trashee- You’re probably right. Except for the Subway part. The smell of that place makes me ill. It doesn’t smell like anything else. I don’t know what it is – actually I did have a theory once that I wrote up here, but I don’t know if I can find it back.

    Susan – Thanks for making that point. And yes, there’s really no reason for the government to be regulating this EXCEPT that there are people suing the fast food industry and government food regulators for making them fat and ill. I’m not sure how to reconcile that. Same thing with all those class action suits against the tobacco company. Everybody had to pay through the nose for making people sick who chose to smoke of their own free will.

    Squid – I guess I’d ask you the same question I asked Susan. If we’re not allowed to legislate stuff like this, are people still allowed to sue when they get sick?

  31. I visit Starbucks on occasion, A&W once a month or so, and KFC maybe twice a year… the rest of them, not at all. I wouldn’t be sad to see any of them go.

    Bring on the wine-soaked bread stands! That sounds divine.

    Enjoy Paris, and I hope XUP Jr. manages to let go of her teen-aged apathy enough to really suck the marrow out of the experience.

  32. When I am in Montpellier (France) I always go to the McDonalds there. Simple reason. Where else can you have a” Royale with Cheese” a beer and consume it from on top of a lounge lizard’s grand piano?

  33. Nope, all the QSRs (Quite Seriously Repulsive?) could disappear tomorrow and I would not care. Our local chip shop, on the other hand, is a different matter……

  34. i ate a burger from a place called “sonic” about a week ago (i usually refuse their food) and i was swollen from the sodium/salt of it. i was sick and bloated, BLECH!

    taco bell has some veggie items and a new way of preparing called “fresco” which is pretty cool. when i have to eat at the yucky places i do not eat the entire serving (i know, i know that’s not much consolation).

    i’m very excited that you are going to paris to pick out a new home for all of us 🙂 have fun and let yourself go hog wild!

  35. I am totally hooked on Starbucks, but I would never miss the fat and salt places if they disappeared. Having said that I must admit the best McDonald’s in the entire world is in Rome, the worst in the world is in Paris. Do not under any circumstances eat there during your visit!