A California food company is opening a drive-in restaurant they hope will change the landscape of the fast-food industry. But can we hold off on the ‘revolutionary’ predictions for a bit?
Sometimes I weep for my profession.
Uh, the profession of journalism, that is, not my other “profession” of full-time parent and husband.
That causes weeping on a daily basis.
I’m referring to the tendency of reporters and writers to swallow storylines without a whole lot of critical analysis. A classic example is the “Company A intends to ‘revolutionize’ the industry” story. While there have indeed been a few revolutions in various business sectors — refrigeration, plastics, the Internet come to mind — most media coverage of alleged revolutions is vastly overblown.
Today’s Exhibit A is a story appearing on multiple news aggregation sites: “Vegetarian Drive-Thru Wants to Revolutionize Fast Food.”
“While McDonald’s continues to hemorrhage millions each month, a new California startup is quietly attempting to set a different standard for fast food,” a story on the Fastcoexist.com website (affiliated with Fast Company magazine) began.
Nice try, only the revolutionary in question is neither a start-up nor a new company.
Amy’s Drive-Thru, the leader of this so-called revolution, is a one-unit restaurant that is a spin-off of vegetarian food manufacturer Amy’s Kitchen, which for more than 25 years has marketed a line of frozen veggie patties, “mac ‘n cheez,” meatless burritos and various other vegetarian products.
Can one drive-thru revolutionize the fast food industry? Technically, it’s possible, I suppose. Ray Kroc did it 60 years ago, but that was in a different time, with different demographics and vastly different socio-economic conditions.
So let’s stipulate that “revolutionary” might be a j-u-u-u-u-st a bit premature.
“Amy’s is launching an all-vegetarian, 95% organic diner in Rohnert Park [where] everything will be made from scratch on site — from tofu to buns — and will be ready in less than three minutes,” the story continued.
Only its menu isn’t “all-vegetarian,” unless you consider milkshakes and mac and cheese — made with actual dairy products — to be all-vegetarian. All-lacto-ovo-vegetarian, maybe, in which case the folks following that diet aren’t really vegetarians.
Amy’s Drive-Thru is located in Rohnert Park, Calif., and for those not familiar with West Coast geography, that’s a toney, upscale town of about 40,000 nestled in Sonoma County wine country between Petaluma and Santa Rosa, an area of the country that is as different socially and economically from the rest of America as East Africa is from Western Europe.
Not to say that Amy’s revolution couldn’t spread beyond NoCal, only that income levels and political persuasions across the Midwest, the South and the Mid-Atlantic states would have to undergo their own revolution first.
Look, I give the marketing and business development folks at Amy’s credit for trying to capitalize on changing tastes and food preferences among a fairly broad swath of consumers. People are more likely these days to opt for fresher, “healthier,” non-fired food choices, and there’s certainly room for alternatives to conventional fat-food menuboards.
Truth is, we could all stand to purchase and consume the foods we regularly eat with a little more consideration and discretion.
Could we also get a similar level of deliberation from journalists before they play the “revolutionary” card? □
Dan Murphy is a food-industry journalist and commentator