Would you like that supersized? McDonald’s builds its largest branch on the Olympic Park – A recipe for a happy meal or disaster?

Tom Puddy takes a look at the world's largest McDonald's and explains why he's "lovin' it"

McDonald’s is going supersized; really, really supersized. As in 3,000 square metres of supersized. The fast food chain plans on building its largest branch in the world as part of the Olympics, and quite frankly, I wish them the best of luck with it. The structure will be a temporary one, made out of recycled materials and it is estimated that over 180,000 portions of fries will be served, as well as 50,000 Big Macs, with equally colossal numbers of their other menu options available.

In other words, it’s going to make an awful lot of hungry Olympics fans and Londoners very happy.

More importantly given the current economy however, is the number of jobs that this McDonald’s branch will create. Within the restaurant itself there will be 2,000 new jobs created. Admittedly, these will be the much derided “Mcjobs” that people seem to look down upon with such contempt, and they will be temporary as opposed to long term. However, they will also provide a wage for people who are currently unemployed, and importantly, it will provide them with experience. Any boost that these people can get on their CVs will put them one step closer to getting a new job when the Olympics are over. But there are also much wider benefits for the suppliers of the restaurant. The suppliers of the ingredients will gain a direct boost in business, as will the ones making the deliveries and so too will all the men and women connected with them. More business, more jobs, more trade, better CVs and numerous other advantages for businesses and their employees make this McDonald’s restaurant a good thing before even reaching the advantages for hungry customers.

“McDonald’s is going supersized; really, really supersized. As in 3,000 square metres of supersized”

On a personal note, I almost never enter a McDonald’s or any other fast food chain. I find the food to be low standard and the portions too small, and I really do not appreciate the inevitable screaming of the toddler in the corner who, for X, Y or Z reason is wailing as if the entire world has just ended. But that’s just my own opinion. For most it’s a very quick, very cheap meal. For almost everyone in society, there is a reason to utilise a fast food restaurant. If you’re tired, busy, out with friends, out with family or completely lacking in romance and are out on a date – a fast food meal may be just the trick for an empty stomach. In all honestly, it’s difficult to argue with 99p for a meal (no matter how stingy the portions).

Returning to the restaurant in question, it has been an ongoing tradition of McDonald’s to support the Olympics. Beginning in 1968, it has sponsored the Olympics on numerous occasions with a variety of advertising schemes, with the “When the US Wins, You Win” scheme being the most disastrous. Indeed, the entire concept of McDonald’s being intertwined with the Olympics seems self defeating. It seems as if someone in their PR department is deliberately trying to get fired. As one of the main folk devils of the obesity epidemic, it would seem logical for McDonald’s to keep its head in the sand until this entire exercise orientated sporting event was over. Instead however, they have taken the bull by the horns and seen the Olympics as a business opportunity. Good for them. Quite frankly the next time I see an advert for nappies/phones/soap that claims that it’s in some way related to the Olympics I may genuinely be driven past breaking point. At least with McDonald’s there’s an obvious reason behind the gimmick – they’re there to sell burgers to people at the Olympics. THAT at least makes sense, a tenuous link with a credit card does not.

“Since so much of the Olympics will be grossly overpriced, what’s wrong with a cheap food source?”

The other big reason for this of course is image. To put things lightly, there has been a bit of an image issue over the last 40 years, which Ronald McDonald just has been able to laugh off. The company has had its share of detractors and has caused problems in the past. It has also really not helped itself at times; big business suing the little guy in one of the most famous cases in English law is just not good for image. However, McDonald’s has done a lot to counter this over the last few years. Their green policies and reductions in packaging have created genuine results. Also their charitable contributions, particularly regarding poorer children within society, are truly laudable.

The big question therefore is: how can the opening of this restaurant be a bad thing? True, the food is not exactly gourmet and excessive devouring of fast food has contributed to an obesity epidemic. But then, so too has gorging on all food. The calorie count of (insert X middle class food) can be astronomical, and pretty much any food today that isn’t a salad will be fattening. It’s therefore little more than snobbery to be opposed to a fast food restaurant for the fans of the Olympics. It also begs the question that, since so much of the Olympics will be grossly overpriced, what’s wrong with a cheap food source?

Personally I like the way that McDonald’s is turning itself from a negative stereotype of the capitalist system into an organisation that is doing philanthropic good for the world around it. It may still have its problems and its detractors and McDonald’s is still frequently criticised. However, the restaurant will be a boon both for everyone involved, and the professionalism of McDonald’s will be the least of people’s worries.