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YT bids farewell to McDonald’s in The Guardian

Here’s a link to a short piece I wrote for the Grauniad this morning about – what else – the McOusting of McDonald’s.

The Link.

It’s a little more, shall we say, polished than the quickie blurb I posted here yesterday. For what it’s worth.

Oh, and some of those comments below it… *long whistle*

Unsurprising, perhaps, since we’re in for a storm – a warning has been issued. Always like a good storm. They’re so invigorating. It’s currently 8°C [46F] in the capital, the sun came up at 8.53, set at 5.27.



Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Leighton October 27, 2009, 10:23 pm

    I wouldn’t miss them in the UK – it would be so much cleaner….

  • idunn October 28, 2009, 4:56 am

    Good article. Wouldn’t be surprised if you hear from others concerning the fast food chains still in residence, although this mentioned in your prior piece. As for Mr Davíð Oddsson, suspect he won’t be last in line at McDonald’s.

  • James October 28, 2009, 8:08 am

    Anyone know if Ronald McDonald has ever closed all his golden arches in a country before?

    According to Thomas Friedman’s Golden Arches Theory of Conflict Prevention, it doesn’t bode well for future peace in the North Atlantic. The Center for Peacemaking and Conflict Studies at Fresno Pacific University observes: “The economic and political climate that draws McDonald’s franchisees is one that speaks of order, and the existence of a McDonald’s in a country is an excellent indicator of social order. Where order is absent, chaos reigns and profit does not emerge. Where order spreads, McDonald’s is not far behind. It is too bad that the existence of a McDonald’s is a symptom of social order rather than the cause of it.

  • Bert Pachetta October 28, 2009, 8:40 am

    One thing we shouldn’t lose sight of is that McDonalds doesn´t enter a country without being invited by some local business person who has to request a franchise. A lot of the stuff I have been reading almost implies that McDonalds thrusts itself on a country. I´m against most fast food joints as I have seen what they have done to the Icelandic population over the last 35 years or so.

  • Gail Lenai October 28, 2009, 8:58 am

    “The lady doth protest too much, methinks.”

  • hassan October 28, 2009, 9:56 am

    I’m not a fan of McDonalds, but when I’m driving with a crying baby and two hungry kids I would much rather make a dash for the nearest McDonalds and feel confidant that I’d be getting something pretty quickly, would know what to expect and fairly pleasent service.

    Or I could go to the nearest gas station and get a greasy hamburger swimming in sauce or a plastic pylsur that has been laying in a pan of hot water for three hours, a microwaved bun, shrivelled up oinons, all covered with fat-laden sauces and served by a spotty teenager with little respect for basic hygiene and even less for good customer service.

  • alda October 28, 2009, 10:07 am

    James – again, McDonald’s isn’t closing. The Icelandic franchise owners are dropping it.

    hassan – so are we to understand from your comment that spotty teenagers with little respect for basic hygiene and even less for good customer service don’t work at Icelandic McDonald’s – only at gas stations?

    Gail – you’re right. I’m actually beyond distraught. Never mind that I have been to McDonald’s in Iceland only twice in 15 years.

  • Carl Mosconi October 28, 2009, 11:31 am

    Someone correct me if I am wrong but I have a feeling that those famous hot dogs sold at Bæjarins Bestu, when fitted with fried onions and remolaði sauce, can also be classified as artery cloggers.

  • Bromley86 October 28, 2009, 11:58 am

    Hassan – I’m going to show my lack of parenthood by saying that (a) you should plan ahead and (b) you shouldn’t feed them that crap.

  • hassan October 28, 2009, 12:04 pm

    My point is that one of the reasons that McDonalds is popular and successful is that people know what they are going to get wherever the McDonalds are situated – decent levels of hygiene, safe food, reasonable prices, clean toilets, clean baby changing facilaties, clean highchairs, simple food that kids will eat and some form of play equipment to keep them occupied while the parents eat and drink.

    Everything has it’s place.

  • Easy October 28, 2009, 12:17 pm

    Mc. Donalds is closing, the fact that they are opening another restaurante in the same place doesn’t mean that M’D is not closing, we can sugar coate it with as many good things that “will come” out if this(health, freedom from “evil” franchises,use of icelandic prudocts,etc.) but M’D is closing. Regarding health, are they not going to have exactly the same menu, as so many people are very proud to remark?

    Now the real reasons they are closing:
    “the ‘unique operational complexity’ of doing business in Iceland, along with the challenging economic climate there made it ‘financially prohibitive’ to continue the business.” Mc Donalds representative.

    “the cost of raw materials used in McDonald’s meals had doubled in the past 18 months. ” Magnus Ogmundsson.

    “the krona, has plunged, which means the country can’t afford the imports it once enjoyed. So the irresistible march of globalization and its herald, the Big Mac, suffer a setback.” Jay Hancock, Economist.

    “there is little hope Iceland’s economy would pick up enough in the near future to make the business viable.”
    Magnus Ogmundsson.

    “The economic situation has just made it too expensive for us,” Magnus Ogmundsson.

    “The krona is quite weak and we are buying everything in euros, and we have very high tariffs on imported agricultural products,” Magnus Ogmundsson.

  • DD October 28, 2009, 2:05 pm

    McD just can’t beat the competition. 🙂 Icelanders make delicious sandwiches that can be bought at every grocery store. If I need fast food I buy those. I’ve been living in Iceland for a few years now but never been to McD here. Won’t miss it at all. I’ve actually been twice to McD in my whole life.

  • Jim October 28, 2009, 3:01 pm

    You realize that joining the EU will eliminate the high tariffs, currency devaluations, etc., that led to McDonalds leaving.

    You may want to reconsider what you wish for.

  • ReallyEvilCanine October 28, 2009, 4:05 pm

    I’ll bet you a burger at Vítabar that “Miskatonic Uni” over at Teh Grauniad and this blog’s ignorant, hypocritical, and outright lying commenter “Peter” are one and the same?

  • Bromley86 October 28, 2009, 6:47 pm

    >I’ll bet you a burger at Vítabar that “Miskatonic Uni” over at Teh Grauniad and this blog’s ignorant, hypocritical, and outright lying commenter “Peter” are one and the same?

    I assume that you mean Peter – London? In that case I think you owe Alda a burger as the posting styles/content don’t look the same to me. Take the first post. It contains the qualifier “apparently”, which isn’t the sort of language I’d expect from Peter. [/stalk mode]

  • alda October 28, 2009, 6:53 pm

    Ah, all those belligerent commenters run together into one unidentifiable mass for me. But if I remember correctly, Peter – London uses an email address that starts with eat_me, which is an immediate turn-off and generally doesn’t facilitate smooth approval of comments.

  • alda October 28, 2009, 6:57 pm

    Ah, no, I just checked – the eat_me guy is someone else.

  • Dorothy.Gale October 28, 2009, 8:10 pm

    Just curious Alda, when you use the word “Grauniad” in the text, is that an Icelandic joke or just a misspelling? Grauniad sounds Icelandic!

  • joeinvegas October 28, 2009, 8:29 pm

    Hmm, perhaps I should change my email address.

    but no Micky -D’s? Somehow I would rather eat local food as well, but chains do have advantages, as some have specified. I can go into a MacD’s anywhere and know what to expect, it might not be too great but it is reliable.

  • ReallyEvilCanine October 28, 2009, 8:58 pm

    Bromley, even if I lose the bet it still means I’m having another huge burger at Vítabar covered in “hamburger spice”, blue cheese and a truly obscene amount of chopped garlic.

    What I’m really wondering is whether the disappearance of McD’s foreshadows a change of the plans to try and turn Laugarveg into a giant global brand-name strip mall.

  • alda October 28, 2009, 10:26 pm

    DG – Grauniad is an “offical” nickname for the Guardian. If you type in grauniad.co.uk it will redirect to the Guardian website.

  • Bromley86 October 29, 2009, 12:17 am
  • James October 29, 2009, 9:47 am

    Last night, I had a Big Tasty Bacon medium meal and muffin at a London Temple of the Golden Arches. The burger box said 885 calories and 84% of recommended daily fat intake – for just the burger. The chocolate muffin was a further 560 calories. The total for the one medium meal, including regular fries and regular Coke, came to 1970 calories. It must have been one of the best meals (on a calories per penny basis) that money can buy!

  • ReallyEvilCanine October 29, 2009, 1:20 pm

    The “Big & Tasty” is neither big nor tasty. It’s garbage of questionable and suspicious origin. A fresh burger, fries and drink (Coke or beer) at the Vítabar (or maybe Hresso) costs around the same as a McD combo meal. The local burgers are bigger, taste better, are not as nutritionally poor (salt, fats, HFCS, meat of unknown origin, high-sugar and additive sauces). Just as importantly, buying from a local business keeps adults working and almost all of the money in Iceland rather than sending ½ to the EU for supplies and shipping and another ¼-⅓ to the US for franchise fees.

    McD’s didn’t have a cheapie menu in Iceland as they do in the EU, UK and US, with $1 chicken sammiches, double cheeseburgers, fries, pies and more. The financial cost per calorie in Iceland doesn’t compete with local food. For cheap, unhealthy, high-fat (and very tasty) calories in Iceland it’s a hot dog with the works (pylsa með öllu). Or you can eat healthy, locally caught fish from protected, non-overfished waters which would be overrun and fished out inside a year if Iceland joins the EU since that would almost certainly require the country to relinquish all territorial waters fishing restrictions.

  • pw October 29, 2009, 4:38 pm

    Isn’t referring to this as an “ouster” a little disingenuous? That implies that McDonald’s was driven out by protests or a boycott, which of course isn’t the case. It closed down because Iceland’s economy cannot support it. While the loss of Mcdonalds is certainly not that big of a deal, the underlying reasons why this happened *are* (and this is why this story has received so much international attention). The Icelandic central bank, for example, is predicting that a third — a third! — of households could be burdened with mortgages which surpass their value due to the krona’s weakness. (http://www.forbes.com/feeds/afx/2009/10/26/afx7044401.html) So while McDonald’s closing is in and of itself not a serious problem, it is symptomatic of one.

  • alda October 29, 2009, 5:28 pm

    pw – quite right! I shall urge all my fellow Icelanders to don long faces and walk around with chins touching navels forthwith.

  • pw October 30, 2009, 12:58 am

    Har har! Alda, you’re absolutely correct (I mean that without sarcasm). Crushing despair certainly is no help, and I wasn’t advocating for that. Rather — realism, which does not need to lead to gloom, but can be empowering.

  • alda October 30, 2009, 9:47 am


    I do think most Icelanders are realistic about what is happening – certainly it is hard not to be if you’ve lost your job, have a mountain of debt, etc. And the people I know whose mortgages are higher than the value of their homes are perfectly aware of this.

    But you have to examine this in a historical context. The Icelandic nation has faced far, far worse than this. In centuries past the population of this country was nearly wiped out on three occasions. We had natural disasters, famines, disease – you name it. So while this economic crisis is certainly grave, it’s fairly lightweight compared to all that. Nobody has died as a result of it. Our homes are still intact. Most people here – 93% of the population – still have work. And we’re returning to a set of values that is much more realistic than the insanity we had during the boom years. Our export sectors are doing very well with the devaluation of the currency. Yes, we have massive debt, and it sucks bigtime – but we’ll survive.

    So all in all, most Icelanders are in pretty high spirits. It’s in the nature of the people here to be optimistic and to face adversity and that’s what we’re doing.

  • cak October 30, 2009, 10:27 am

    … And now the Icelandic Mac-D´s are selling 10000+ burgers everyday…

  • DD October 30, 2009, 11:11 am

    pw, another point of view:

    “McDonald’s sourced the ingredients for its fast food menu mostly from Germany, so the collapse of the krona savaged its bottom line. But doesn’t that mean that McDonald’s, operating with a business model that couldn’t adjust to currency shifts, should be the one hiding its face in shame?

    I understand the symbolism here, which suggests that if even McDonald’s can’t make a buck in Iceland, then Iceland’s economy is totally fubared. But let’s turn that around. McDonald’s specializes in producing the lowest possible cost Big Macs and Fries by economizing on such a huge scale that it has warped the entire structure of global agriculture and food production away from anything remotely resembling healthy sustainability. McDonald’s only “works” in the context of a system that wreaks intense environmental havoc and sacrifices family farms in favor of industrial agribusinesses.”

    the whole article: http://www.salon.com/tech/htww/2009/10/27/mcdonalds_in_iceland/index.html

    I look at the closing of McD here as a step toward solving the problems. Local ingredients, new jobs, money staying in Iceland…

  • Schneelocke October 30, 2009, 3:59 pm

    Or I could go to the nearest gas station and get a greasy hamburger swimming in sauce or a plastic pylsur that has been laying in a pan of hot water for three hours, a microwaved bun, shrivelled up oinons, all covered with fat-laden sauces and served by a spotty teenager with little respect for basic hygiene and even less for good customer service.

    Funny, that’s always how I feel about McDonald’s. 🙂

    I sometimes get a hankering for that sort of synthetically-produced, artificial, fat-ladden, arterie-clogging, heart attack-inducing and overall just plain unhealthy food on occasion; I don’t feel guilty about it or anything, either, but nevertheless, I think this is interesting and certainly not unwelcome news.

    And of course, smaller burger joints that use locally-produced/-grown ingredients etc. are preferable, anyway.

  • Joerg October 30, 2009, 5:14 pm

    This issue is getting an amount of attention in the international media, which is truly amazing. Some burger shop is changing its supplier and every media-outlet feels obliged to put in their two cents, flavoured à la maison either as a step towards doom or salvation. Another crash of an Icelandic bank couldn’t have received more coverage, I am really surprised.

  • cactus zonie October 30, 2009, 7:22 pm

    From my experience visiting Iceland it comes down like this.

    Tommi Burger VS McDonalds– Tommi wins. Is he still around?
    Hlolla Bar VS Subway –Hlolla wins hands down. Are they still around?

    The local food is so much better. There was another burger one called Winnys. Very good.

    Let’s not even talk hot dogs. Mmmmmm.

    I found Siggi Skyr at whole foods. It’s just as good as the local skyr. It’s made by an Icelander in Chenango County , NY. Very good.

  • silvia planchett October 30, 2009, 7:30 pm

    I have a hankering for some of those fish they have been tossed away to maximize the profit. ( http://www.icelandreview.com/icelandreview/daily_news/?cat_id=28304&ew_0_a_id=351087 ).
    Greed is good according to Gordon Gekko and some of the KB , Landsbanki and Glitnir folks especially Glitnir making 6 million kronur loans to 12 year olds . If your are classified as a child you have a great chance in borrowing money from one of our local banks! (http://www.visir.is/article/20091029/VIDSKIPTI06/432712975 ) Corruption without regard to age, sex, or ability to pay is our policy!

  • cactusZonie October 31, 2009, 1:00 am

    “I have a hankering for some of those fish they have been tossed away to maximize the profit. ”

    I was a fisherman in Alaska for a few years and it amazed me how much we threw away. I believe what we wasted on the Bering Sea would make Iceland look innocent. The idea is to get them overboard alive during thew live tank sorting process after haul back. It never works that way in the industrialized food process. Enjoy those Fish n Chips. Where ever you are.

    “But a report by the Alaska Department of Fish and Game now shows that 750 million pounds of fish–too small, or the wrong species, or out of season – are casually thrown back into the water each year. The fish are dead by then, of course; the trauma of being netted, hauled from the depths and then dumped is almost invariably fatal.”

    As for your banking comment , a dog in New Jersey got a credit card in his name. The tax payers picked up his defaulted loan I’m sure , after he went nuts at Petsmart.

  • James October 31, 2009, 10:52 am

    CNN video about the McDonald’s closing (with great commentary):