McDonald's seems to be everywhere, spreading into high streets and all corners of the globe. But this perception is the result of the most extensive, expensive and systematic mass marketing strategy of recent times, sustained over 40 years and with a current annual budget of 1.8 billion dollars.
Since the Corporation's first store opened near Chicago, USA on April 15th 1955 the company has expanded into over 100 countries, and over a million employees now sell its mediocre food to 29 million people a day. But, as it only has about 21,000 stores, McDonald's is forced to rely on its fragile super-exploitation of workers, resources and customer 'loyalty' in order to continue to make profits.
McDonald's real influence has been in establishing organisational systems of complete control at every stage from raw product to process factory, from worker to consumer - backed of course by incessant media hype. Although they did not invent such processes, McDonald's has probably been the most successful trans-national food corporation at refining, co-ordinating, standardising and developing them into a total system. They've set up these pioneering practices in every country they've moved into, and many other companies have followed suit. As a result, they've significantly aided the spread of the western junk food diet, as well as modern methods of exploiting workers, children and animals. What the Ford company did for cars, travel and our urban environment, McDonald's are doing for food and eating habits.
McDonald's expansion has been criticised and resisted by trade unionists, local residents, nutritionists and many others in almost every town and country where they've planned a new store - despite their sophisticated and expensive propaganda about being a 'benefit' for the community. They are resisted for what they are and for what they represent. They remain a focus for controversy.