Consumers may soon have another reason to go to fast food restaurants- to watch TV! According to Nation’s Restaurant News, McDonalds, Burger King, KFC, Taco Bell, Carl’s Jr., and Hardees are among the fast food restaurants experimenting with placing televisions in their dining rooms in attempt to get customers to feel at home, stay longer and purchase additional beverages and desserts to “fill out their meals.”
Doesn’t lounging around at a fast food restaurant “enjoying your meal” defeat the purpose of fast food? I thought the appeal of these chains was that you could zip up to the drive-thru-window in your car, get your food and go in as little time possible. Regardless, what concerns me is that these televisions are in-store marketing efforts intended to encourage greater consumption of poor-nutrient foods. The last thing that visitors to fast food restaurants need, after already consuming a high-calorie meal loaded with fat and sodium, is to be persuaded by the store’s television content to consume additional calories in the form of sugar-laden apple pies, ice cream sundaes, and soft drink refills.
The average American already watches more than 4 hours of television a day, and youth ages 8 through 18 are exposed to approximately eight and a half hours of media per day. We do not need to watch more television, especially in fast food establishments. We know that increased television viewing and media use is associated with increased obesity. A research study done here at the Rudd Center revealed that children who watched television that contained food advertisements consumed 45% more than children who watched television without food advertisements. This indicates that food advertising cues consumption; therefore, it is likely that this shameless self-promotion in stores at the point-of-purchase (and consumption) will surely increase intake. Of course this is exactly what the companies want.
The use of these televisions in-stores is not only ploy to get customers to stay longer and eat more, but also a direct effort to lure youth into the stores. McDonalds’ spokeswoman admitted their hopes that “[y]oung customers will be drawn in by the buzz [of the McDonald’s Channel] to see what it’s all about, and will come back again to see what’s new.” This “buzz” would keep me away (I would much rather curl up on my couch at home to watch television), but I suspect this isn’t the case for many youth who are eager to get out of their homes and socialize with their peers.
These televisions are not a network wide system yet; but if they accomplish their goals- which I fear they will- then these flat-screen televisions will soon be plastered on the walls of every fast food restaurant across the country, a move that certainly will not help our efforts to promote healthy eating behaviors and reduce obesity.