My McBite pt II (VN)


It’s McDonald 2nd day in Vietnam. You can’t miss it (the Golden Arches), coming South from Highway 1 (North-South) as you merge into the round-about. Location, location, location. The ride-in (for scooter) and drive-in (white Mercedes at my first sighting) were roped up, to train the mass on first-in first-out monochronistic order. The stage (first-day opening) and event staff still linger (one young man w/ side-way cap to differentiate himself from McDonald workers). Kids traveled by bus just to get here for the experience. It feels more like an amusement park more a fast-food launch. But then, both are into “experience” business e.g. clown, children air castle, and maps showing first-timers how to use drive-in windows (same thing happened in China, since drivers there were unaccustomed to drive-in).
Pre-orders were taken while you are in line, enabled by handheld touch pad, the same technology that makes our rental-car return a positive experience. I already had had my porridge lunch, but still tried to squeeze in a cheese burger and an ice-cream cup. This 2nd lunch cost twice as my first one, but the pickles were true to form. All out of curiosity.
Years ago, I had my first McBite at Penn State (see other blog)
I remember McDonald back then more for its fries than the Whopper across the street.
Now, that franchise brands are all here (Pop Eyes is right next door), with 99% available elements (I tried to order a milk shake to no avail. This should make Ray Kroc mad, given his pre-McDonald career as a milk-shake maker route salesman.)
Staff, some trained on the job, others newly recruited, perhaps fresh out of McU. The majority are in their early twenties, mixing with expats who serve as launch specialists. Inter-racial couples come on scooters, just to show the democratizing effect of the McDonald brand. Two countries with a McDonald are less likely to be at war with each other (Friedman’s espoused version on an old geo-political theory). In this case, it’s even less likely (what are the odds of getting hit by lightning twice in your lifetime?).
Customers were chatting and munching one fry at a time (two ketchup bags) to prolong this one-of-a-kind visit.
It’s more than a dining experience. For McDonald, the launch in Vietnam was well-timed with the right product and right location (Burger King and KFC have paved the way for this big flash).
The positive unintended consequences are benefiting adjacent neighborhood, who offers their sidewalk for scooter parking (small bike 5,000 VND, big bike 10,000 VND) and lunch places for McDonald staff (they still can’t afford to eat three McMeals a day). Last year, when Starbucks came, it made a flash just as big, then plateau out.
When looking for a place to empty out my tray, I got teary eyes all of a sudden: my first McBite in the US was associated with loneliness (why else would a foreign student seen eating dinner alone in a fast-food joint off campus), and now, my first McBite in Vietnam surprisingly evokes homesickness (what else can an expat do on a Sunday afternoon when he doesn’t take a nap like everyone else). The sweeping force of modernization which McDonald just happens to represent nudges us along the efficiency trajectory. Kids get dropped off to English school a few blocks away, even on a Sunday afternoon. Next week, when the ropes will be all removed, I wouldn’t be surprised to see them carry a Happy Meal bag along side their book bag. Just watch the waist line, kids.
The future belongs to you, and that future gets stretched out due to longer life expectancy. Brace and pace yourself for the long haul. Beware of anything that comes with “instant” like instant noodle, instant success ( Flappy Bird, a free game that had gone viral from Vietnam, saw instant success, and that was too much for its young inventor to handle).
There will be a few hic-cups (no milk shake or McCafe just yet, or that the real test comes in the rainy season), but by and large, young people here are on the right path, given the right opportunity. Opportunity which tends to dance with those who are already on the dancing floor. Had they pushed the fries, I would have declined .It’s not my first McBite and I don’t want this to be my last.

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