I Love Burgers

September 27, 2008

It’s true. I know they’re bad for you, with no redeeming features, but I just love them. Burgers are one of North America’s gifts to the world, along with jazz and playing golf for money. Here on the Drive, Fet’s makes the best burgers in the city; and every once in a while I just gotta have one. And I do.

In the Weekly Standard this week, is a review by Victorino Matus of Josh Ozersky’s Hamburger: A History“.  The history of the burger, something I have read a great deal about, is the history of American merchandising and the development of consumer capitalism.  It happens concurrently with  the development of other forms of retail merchandising such as supermarkets and malls.  It is all about brands and systems and algorithms that can calculate customer satisfaction-per-dollar-spent.

As the “History” reminds us, there were fast-food systems before Roy Kroc.  There was Walt Anderson and Billy Ingram and the “White Castle System”, as well as Bob Wian’s Big Boy system in California.   But Roy Kroc was special, even though, by the time he met the McDonalds brothers they had:

already successfully converted their drive-in that once served barbecue and employed carhops into, according to Ozersky, “a profit machine that you would turn on in the morning and turn off at night,” thanks to the McDonalds’ Speedee Service System. The menu was shortened and the food preparation resembled an assembly line (involving six-foot griddles, precision condiment pumps, and a heat bar to keep the sandwiches warm). In addition, the owners’ target customers were no longer teenagers but the family–particularly busy postwar mothers. By 1961, annual sales totaled $61 million; today, that number soars to $29 billion.

This would be a fascinating book to take with me next time I simply can’t resist one of Eric’s special Fet’s Burgers.

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R.I.P. To A Genuinely Good Guy

September 27, 2008

Paul Newman (1925-2008)