My best friend laughed and seemed really surprised when we chatted a while ago and I told him I was at McDonalds. I’m not a huge fan of most chain restaurants but there is a good reason they are successful. When people bash any successful franchise it makes me think they are acting out of unfounded emotion instead of actually analyzing the situation and attempting to see things for all points of view. I do understand that many of these corporations engage in cronyism and rent seeking, I am certainly not advocating that, but I am saying that they are successful usually because they are providing a valued product.
McDonald’s certainly provides a valuable product for me and it is not really the food. When I travel through a town I am usually in need of water, food, shade, WiFi, and electricity. McDonald’s provides all of those things and does so cheaply and consistently. I know that if I see those golden arches I can get high calorie cheap food, free wifi, fill my water bottles, sit in air conditioning, and usually plug my phone in during almost any hour of the day. The same can’t be said of local places. There is a reason most local places go out of business, most people would rather spend there money elsewhere because the value they get from those other places are higher.
When I have the time and money at my disposal I love go to local food and coffee shops. Sadly, I’ve come across many places that aren’t open due to odd hours or they have posted hours they don’t follow. For example, I’m using wifi right now from a place called Loose Caboose that has odd hours (closed 2pm-5pm) and isn’t following their own hours (it is 5:38pm but they are closed). This type of inconsistency causes me to love chains that are reliable.
The same can be said of WalMart, Target, and Alco versus “mom and pop shops”. If I need trail mix, sunscreen, t-shirts, a camelback bladder, and bike oil I can go to one of the first places listed and spend 20 minutes or I can spend hours trying to find small businesses that are actually open and spend more money. That isn’t to say I won’t go to a small shop if I have the time, money, or desire but they have mostly gone out of business for a reason, they did not provide a service people wanted.
Big chains mostly exist because they are more efficient at providing people what they value. Greater efficiency is less waste. Now, you may think what people value is wrong but that is an issue of society, not economics. That is consumerism, not capitalism. McDonald’s exists because they provide a service people want, and right now I am often one of those people.