While I’m a huge proponent of buying local products and trying local restaurants, there’s a time and place for the large chains like McDonald’s. The overlying advantage that a large chain has is consistency. No matter where you are, if you walk into a McDonald’s you pretty much know what to expect. While consistency does not necessarily equal quality, there are many times where it just makes sense to go for consistency over searching for quality.
When you do non-stop cross-country drives like I do, time is one of the most important things you have to consider. With just stops for gas, it takes 18-20 hours to go from Texas to Wisconsin. Most chains such as McDonald’s are set up in areas where it is easy to get in and out quickly and their food preparation methods echo this. In some cases, you will see even these type of restaurants attached to gas stations so you can further save time by combining your gas and food stops.
Another element of consistency is knowing the restaurant provides what you need. In my case, I try to post a blog entry a day. This means I need good wifi if I don’t want to burn through my data. I know a place like McDonald’s offers wifi at pretty much all their locations. When I want to post a blog entry, knowing I can work on the online components of my blog as well as get a quick meal makes my life much easier than having to scout out places with wifi.
While I said major chain fast food joints might not be the best for quality, you know what to expect in terms of food. Sometimes there are just days where everything is going bad and the last thing you want to do is take a risk on another bad thing. While I love eating at local places, sometimes taking the risk of a possibly bad meal is just another thing to make my day worse and I’d rather not take that risk. We’ve all had those kind of days and being able to fall back on somewhere that can provide what is expected can help out.
Finally, an often overlooked element of a place like McDonald’s is you can actually get a cultural experience there. I know you might think I’m crazy but I’ve discovered an awesome jalapeño sauce eating at a McDonalds in Mexico and I’ve ate poutine while at a McDonald’s in Canada. While McDonald’s does have a certain level of consistency, I do see they adapt their menus for regional preferences. The menu in Texas looks a bit different than Wisconsin. You can effectively dip your toes into the regional varieties of foods without going too far out of your comfort zone. Additionally, if you’re traveling long term, you can get a bit of a taste of home.
For this travel tip I just wanted to emphasize the value in going to a major chain like McDonald’s. Sometimes you’re in a time crunch, looking for some consistency in offerings such as wifi, having a bad day, or just want to slowly dip your toes into the regional tastes of the area you’re traveling. While I am a huge proponent of keeping it local, I also see the value in these chains and they do provide value while traveling.
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