The New York Times does great things — its reporting on all things Jameis Winston, for example — but this is not one of those things.
James B. Stewart and celebrity chef/game-show judge Geoffrey Zakarian went on a date to McDonald’s so Zakarian — who claims to have never eaten at McDonald’s — could eat at McDonald’s. They also went so the New York Times could confirm what everyone already knows: McDonald’s is bad.
The Times does this a lot. Something happens that makes people have opinions — like American Sniper — and weeks or months later, the Times makes its ruling, summing up what everyone already knows and presenting it like everyone’s favorite Olive Garden review — but with requisite smugness, like when a Columbia professor and a Michelin-star chef eat at McDonald’s.
After telling us what we already know — McDonald’s is losing money, just fired its chief executive, serves unhealthy food — Stewart assays the bounty of McDonald’s for those of us who haven’t made it down from the Palatine Hill.
“The place was loud and chaotic, packed with teenagers. Slushy conditions outside meant someone had to be mopping the floors constantly, and cold drafts swept in every time the door opened. Harsh fluorescent lighting made everyone look even paler than usual at this time of year. The color scheme was garish — McDonald’s signature bright red and yellow.”
Thanks, James. Also, in case you didn’t know they were better than McDonald’s…
“We weren’t exactly anonymous: Several customers recognized Mr. Zakarian and crowded around to take photos. We ordered a Quarter Pounder for me and a grilled chicken wrap for him. (He was obviously going for the healthier option.) We both added fries and coffee. The bill was a little over $15. We took a number and stood aside. We had trouble hearing the numbers above the din, but a few minutes later a helpful employee delivered our bag to us and suggested it would be quieter upstairs.”
A chicken wrap? Nice. It goes on from there. Zakarian thinks the chicken wrap is bad but likes the coffee and fries. Stewart describes the burger, kvetching that it’s too small, too soft and too squishy. Then he describes the burger Zakarian serves at his Lambs Club restaurant in Midtown. It’s made of flesh flensed from “free-range cattle” and comes in a Challah bun, paired with “hand-cut fries” and “house-made condiments.” All that costs $22.
Fair comparison, right? Actually, no.
“That’s not the answer for McDonald’s,” [Zakarian] said. “Price and value are important, and people don’t want to wait. But they need to tell a better story, talk more about quality, the source of the ingredients, address the health concerns. I can assure you that if they had a great story and a better company culture, this same burger would taste a lot better.”
The couple didn’t understand why no one asked what they wanted on their quarter-pounder, which they split. (Of course they split it.) And either they didn’t notice or they just tamped their outrage that no minimum-wage employee asked how they wanted their quarter-pounder with cheese cooked.
“Apart from the food, the McDonald’s ambience was abysmal, although Mr. Zakarian observed that the raucous teenagers seemed to be having a good time.”
So McDonald’s serves bad food, its restaurants are dumps and its marketing is crap. That’s official now because the New York Times deigned to tell us. I wonder how long it takes poor to wash off in the shower.