Right this posting has nothing to do with music at all but it has everything to do with the times we live in – especially for someone of bus pass years. Almost every day I come across something that makes me smile and shake my head in disbelief or just makes me shake with bloody rage. Today was mostly a case of the latter. GRRR.
But let’s put Mr Angry away until tomorrow and write about something of the moment and surprisingly fun. An article in this week-end’s Sunday Times reminded me of an incident maybe 15 years ago. My old mate SF was over from America and we’d decided to go and watch a match at Spurs, his beloved team. Before the match we’d popped into a McDonald’s close to the ground and he ordered something off-menu. I can’t remember precisely what it was – but it was a very different way of cooking the meat patty. Now I just figured he was ordering something off a regular American McD’s menu and showing off a bit but he later explained he wasn’t – he just had a hunch they’d make it for him. I was staggered by this. I thought the point of American fast-food chains was to deliver a set menu, quickly prepared and at great value. The whole process was designed around a simple single process executed millions of times over and the business plan simply wouldn’t allow for personal customisation or anything approaching a la carte choices. I know that with internationalisation the chains have tailored their menus to appeal to certain particular local tastes but they’re still delivered as part of the set menu.
Over the years I’ve visited fast food chains and coffee shops many times and never felt like asking, as my friend did, for something completely different. That’s even though I’ve often wanted something not quite what was on offer. For example you can’t get a filet-o-fish sandwich/bun in Burger King as you can in McD’s. I’d also like to be able to order the style of chips in McD’s like you get in BK’s. And why can’t you order at least some of that breakfast menu after 10.30am when you can order the main menu 24 hours a day? In Starbucks I hate the great big thick-edged mugs the coffee comes in when you consume inside. I rarely finish the thing because I can’t drink that much coffee. I’ve often thought I can’t be alone in this. Why don’t they offer coffee in smaller sizes in nice stylish cups that you’d find in any cafe in France or Italy and throughout most of Europe?
Well here’s a little secret that my mate knew all those years ago I suspect and which was brought to light by that ST article; almost all these chains have a secret menu. Non-standard Items you can order which is based, obviously, on the products from the main menu but adapted to suit your very particular tastes. I mean, don’t expect to order lobster thermidore nuggets served on a bed of fried elephant’s trunk and expect it to be served up. But the range of things you could order with a bit of a knowing wink to signify you’re in the all-knowing inner circle is truly imaginative. For example in McD’s secret world you can order a Land, Sea and Air burger consisting of ……..a beef patty, a filet-o-fish and a slice of fried chicken all served in a bun. Now that’s bloody brilliant, if an unusual combo taste-wise. Or how about a Big McChicken – a big mac served between two chicken slices rather than a bread bun. It doesn’t work for me but taste is in the mouth of the ‘be bolder’. Now something I would be interested in is the MC 10.35 – a hamburger and an egg mcmuffin served after the watershed. Wey hey. For BK fans how about an order of ‘frings’? Can you see what it is yet? A container with a side order of half fries and half onion rings. Genius. And joy of joys I read that it is possible to order a ‘short’ coffee size in Starbucks even though it’s availability and price are never published. Or how about a biscotti frappuccino – a regular frap with bits of cookie chunks blended in? No not for me either but my daughter R would love it.
Of course all this has been spawned by internet chat, rather than by the weight of huge sighs from grumpy old gits like me, but it has genuinely led to the chains increasingly adopting a ‘have it your way’ philosophy in response to ever more particular requests from their customers. And with so much choice now, a fast food brand that doesn’t listen to its customers deserves to burger off.
I may be the last person on earth to know about this but frings are definitely looking up.