The Czech paradox: fast food is more expensive than “noon menus”

In Economy on September 29, 2009 by Petr Bokuvka Tagged: , , ,

A new fast food place opened two blocks from my office. It is called Cowley’s and it serves baguettes, croissants, various kinds of pasta etc. The most expensive baguette is CZK 75, which is $4.30.

The interesting thing is that this is a typical price of a warm lunch menu served by most restaurants, consisting of a soup and a regular warm main dish. Czech restaurants serve “noon menus” between 11 a.m. and 2. p.m. to people whose lunch breaks allow them to sit down for more than 30 minutes and have lunch.

(c) The Economist and McDonald's

(c) 2009 The Economist and McDonald's

Most McDonald’s menus cost around CZK 100, i.e. $5.70, same with KFC. According to the 2009 Big Mac Index (data via the Czech Wikipedia) the burger costs $3.54 in the U.S. and $3.13 in the Czech Republic. I don’t think you can get a soup and a main dish for this price in the U.S. Besides, it is not customary to tip waiters when you have your noon menu, so the price the restaurants declare is all you have to pay…

When they came to the Czech Republic, these fast food chains managed to convince Czechs they want fast food, and the prices have been set to reflect this. Children are taken out for a Happy Meal as a form of reward and teenagers go there because it is considered a part of their “style” (when you eat at McDonald’s, it means you are in). In other words, most people who eat at McDonald’s could easily go some place else to have more for less.

I used to live in the States so I think I am qualified to assess that most Americans eat at McDonald’s because they HAVE to, while in the Czech Republic most people eat there because they WANT to. And therefore the fast food chains of this kind will always be more expensive than regular noon menus (okay, with the exception of some special offers, like “buy three cheeseburgers, get two free”)…


4 Responses to “The Czech paradox: fast food is more expensive than “noon menus””

  1. I have never been in US. Can you plz tell me why Americans HAVE TO eat in McDonalds?

  2. Well, let’s put it this way…
    The notion that Americans “have to” eat “Mickey D’s”, is in some way true of many area of the country. It varies by such things as agricultural climes, proximity to farming areas, population density and so forth. Americans are driven predominantly by the almighty dollar, and how it can “improve” the quality of their lives. This means they are working longer hours than many others, working two or three jobs. Adn a great percentage of those people are raising kids or taking care of elders. The “quick fix” for reducing meal times and the preparation of meals is to do a quick “drive-through” at a fast food joint. You just have to do it. 5 minutes in line, a few dollars later, you have a relatively warm meal that fills the void, and keeps you moving. We don’t for the most part, don’t have such superb public transit systems, and most folks are required to drive a pretty extensive distance, to engage in activities of a routine nature. Driving through a fast-food joint, keeps you on the go, and on time, and permits you to accomplish a greater number of things in your day. It is not so much of a “have to”, in the respect that we are forced to do so, but out of sheer convenience. If you don’t have time to prepare a meal, or sit at a restaurant, then you have very few options for satisfying your hunger, more convenient and simple than picking up fast food. You almost “have to” do it, in order to get s*** done, without pausing. And of course, commercial F&B ventures use mass media to reinforce this “have-to” notion. I didn’t feel any need to ever do the fast-food thing, but then again I’m not exactly a “typical American” either. Sorry about being so verbose, I’ll keep the next post short!

  3. Спасибо. было познавательно.

  4. It’s all about pricings. McD is a franchise, it does not adapt to price indexes. In Russia, McD was a luxury thing in early 1990s.

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