There was an interesting story in today’s New York Times (yes, I know that sounds like an oxymoron, but still. . . .) about a war between a McDonald’s and some elderly Asian men. The men want to treat the fast-food franchise like a fin de siècle Viennese coffee house, where one could buy cup for coffee and, by doing so, essentially rent a chair for a day. The McDonald’s ownership is hostile to this, saying that its business model isn’t built to accommodate daily chair rentals for $1.39 in french fries:
For the past several months, a number of elderly Korean patrons and this McDonald’s they frequent have been battling over the benches inside. The restaurant says the people who colonize the seats on a daily basis are quashing business, taking up tables for hours while splitting a small packet of French fries ($1.39); the group say they are customers and entitled to take their time. A lot of time.
“Do you think you can drink a large coffee within 20 minutes?” David Choi, 77, said. “No, it’s impossible.”
And though they have treated the corner restaurant as their own personal meeting place for more than five years, they say, the situation has escalated in recent months. The police said there had been four 911 calls since November requesting the removal of the entrenched older patrons. Officers have stopped in as frequently as three times a day while on patrol, according to the patrons, who sidle away only to boomerang right back. Medium cups of coffee ($1.09 each) have been spilled; harsh words have been exchanged. And still — proud, defiant and stuck in their ways — they file in each morning, staging a de facto sit-in amid the McNuggets.
I’m with McDonald’s on this one. Not only is it a fast food model, which by definition precludes linger, but as a business it still has the right to assert that an invitation to enter the business premises for the purpose of buying and consuming food cannot be construed as an invitation to buy minimal food and then occupy the premises indefinitely. And it makes no difference that old Asian men can be seen as sympathetic characters. This is a form of theft insofar as the men are wrongfully depriving the franchise of revenue. Despite laws and court decisions mandating that Christians make gay wedding cakes or party balloons, the law probably hasn’t gone so far that it insists that a restaurant customer gets to dictate to the business how to manage its tables.
As for me, after having read the article, I’m really craving an order of McDonald’s Chicken Tenders (3 pieces), with a regular Coke, and a side of fries. Yum. Don Quixote and I used to have that about once a month, and I always enjoyed it tremendously. As far as I’m concerned, there is not a single restaurant in Marin County (possibly in the whole Bay Area) that makes better french fries than McDonald’s does.