There is a hierarchy among fast-food chains, no doubt. This hierarchical system will naturally vary given individual tastes, so the question of best fast food invariably becomes favorite fast food. Where such personal preference is involved, there can never be a definitive answer to the question, “Which fast-food chain is the best?”
So let us tighten the scope: “Which fast-food chain’s locale is the best?”
Not a trick question. Though all locales are equal in the estimation of the parent company, some undoubtedly excel, although it is not a simple matter of revenue, cleanliness, location near major traffic arteries or otherwise. Rather, it comes down to the food.
But how? When quality is assured, the only alternative measurement is quantity, right?
The expectation of any major fast-food chain is that its individual locales guarantee a prescribed level of quality and quantity. That sort of control is assumed. For example, a McDonald’s Quarter Pounder will, by definition, begin as an uncooked patty weighing no less than four ounces. There is a certain level of fulfillment (fullness, satiation) that the customer expects to meet when ordering that particular burger: “I eat a quarter pound, thus I expect a quarter pound of fulfillment.”
Same with the fries. Or is it? Fry containers of a particular size are supposed to have equal dimensions. True. However, the number of fries put in each container is going to vary. So, the measure of a good fast-food locale, what separates it from another of the same chain, is generosity given that fry count cannot be exact.
Such generosity is measured in spillover. It’s when a drive-thru customer reaches into the bag blindly to find he’s finished everything in the fry container, but is pleasantly surprised to discover a handful more scattered about the bottom of the bag. That’s what it’s all about. Spillover.
This standard can be applied elsewhere, to varying degrees. If, for example, a customer finds himself licking faster than normal to compensate for a soft-serve cone about to topple – that’s spillover, that’s a good restaurant. It’s also the locale that offers help-yourself soda refills. Of course, this relies on the customer’s appetite; nevertheless, the potential for spillover remains.
So take note. Remember to check for spillover. Find the best locale. And that said, try not to eat too much fast food.
Author: Calvin Liu is editor of The Glut: E-Journal for the Artist, Saint and Sinner and copy editor at the Contra Costa Times in Walnut Creek, California.