The Fast (Food) And The Furious (Consumer)

Private Property South Africa
Shaun Wewege

I weep for the human race sometimes. I honestly do. A few weeks back, thousands of people left their homes, braved the elements and waited in seemingly endless queues for what, in my opinion, is a very limited pay-off. No, I’m not talking about the Justin Bieber concert, though I understand the confusion, but the opening of Burger King in Cape Town. Are we that deprived of fast food outlets that we would stand in queues longer than the wrinkles that would be on Joan Rivers’ face if she’d skipped all the plastic surgery?

I remember when McDonalds first set up in South Africa, for the first few weeks friends would come to school and brag about having eaten there. A Big Mac was a badge of honour. Now it’s the walk of shame when you’re too lazy to cook or so hung-over that operating a stove becomes a danger.

Now don’t get me wrong, fast food outlets have their place in the world. Without them aspiring actors would be working as shelf packers. And when you’ve been sitting traffic for hours it’s far easier to wolf down a Big Mac than battling more crowds in supermarkets, prepared to fight for the death for the last can of heat-and-eat soup on the shelf. But spending hours in a queue for fast food makes about as munch sense as spending the night outside a concert venue so that you can get to stand in front – when the artist is a former Idols runner up.

I’ll never forget one of the most exciting experiences of my childhood years – going through a drive-thru for the first time. I was spending the night at a friend’s house and his mom took us to KFC as they had just opened their drive-thru. It took quite some time to be done with the whole process but we were nonetheless impressed that you could order food without leaving your car. Of course today, you can buy anything from you car at any intersection. And if the right traffic official pulls you over, you can buy him too. Come to think of it, I clearly had a rubbish childhood if going to a fast food outlet is something that is stuck in my memory.

The big question is: will the newest franchise in the South African fast food outlet market survive? More importantly, will South Africans, ever more dependant on fast food, survive to see their 40th birthdays? I will admit to having the odd KFC craving from time to time, perhaps as a result of fond memories laid down in my youth, but there is little that beats a home cooked meal. I have a pretty decent idea of what the ingredients are; unless my girlfriend is angry with me I’m quite confident that no one has decided to spit in my food; the menu is varied and it’s cheaper.

Besides, there is endless fun to be had in pretending to be Gordon Ramsay and yelling obscenities at the cat while cooking dinner.

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