Monday, September 14, 2009

Changing the Fast Food Paradigm & Breakfast on the Road at Del Taco

Del Taco
2269 S El Camino Real
Oceanside, CA 92056
(760) 433-8450

Road Trip Breakfast at Del Taco

As a heavy driver in Southern California, ground zero of the fast food movement, fast food is a reality in my life from time to time. I think in this era of long work hours, heavy traffic and an economy necessitating dual incomes, the convenience and price point of fast food makes it a reality in most people's lives at least occasionally. A couple demons plague the reputation of fast food. One of these is the safety of eating fast food while driving. A self-selected poll of readers at Reporter News tells us that almost 60% of poll takers eat in their car at least once a week. After passing and implementing a law making it illegal to drive and hold your cell phone simultaneously, I think a heightened awareness about what it is safe to do while driving (in addition to simply, uh, driving?) has developed among my peers.

Del Taco Breakfast Burrito

This past September 11th, Up to Speed in the LA Times reported on the Dashboard Dining Index published by Kelton Research. The Dashboard Dining Index analyzes fast food for its ease of use for eating while driving. Some key factors included in the research are: potential drips or spills, number of napkins necessary and ability to eat with one hand.

Del Taco Breakfast Taco Al Carbon

Initially, this study made me laugh. Someone went to the trouble to analyze fast food offerings to see which would be easiest to eat while driving? Really? However, upon reflection I see beyond the humor. Especially given a conversation repeated during this last family weekend. It has come time to teach my wonderful nephew how to drive. With a family full of teachers and colorful characters, there has been much conversation about who will teach N to drive a car. D offered, naturally, he loves to spend time with N. Apparently, when this was suggested my initial response was, "N doesn't need to learn how to drive while talking on the phone, steering with his knees and eating at the same time." Apparently, knowing what is easiest to eat while driving could be impactful.

Here is a rundown:

  • Chicken Tenders from Burger King tied with McDonald's Chicken McNuggets.
  • Crunchwrap Supreme from Taco Bell (purposefully created to be easy to eat with one hand).
  • Wendy's Jr. Bacon Cheeseburger.
  • Tuna Wrap at Subway.

Del Taco Breakfast Taco al Carbon

The second demon, a much larger issue, plaguing fast food is its nutritional value. Conversations about the nutritional value, or lack thereof in fast food has become part of our cultural landscape in the past few decades. These conversations have become increasingly heated during the current nutritional climate of green living, slow food, local produce and the desire for anything and everything organic.

Del Taco Breakfast Quesadilla

California voters have sought to inform consumers nutritionally about fast food and hopefully increase public health by voting for legislation requiring new labeling laws at chain restaurants with more than 20 locations. All chains with more than 20 locations will be required to publish nutirional info right on the menu. Most of you know this and I think many of you voted for this. I was initially torn about the bill. On the one hand, I believe it is up to consumers to be informed about what they are buying. This is how I prefer capitalism to work. Put it on the market as long as it is safe. Let the buyer make their own choices about what and when to purchase. However, teaching for nearly a decade in Crenshaw gave me a little different perspective on the ability of consumers subsisting at poverty level to have the time and motivation to research the healthiest choices at their local McDonald's or Taco Bell. We know that this food is convenient to anyone working long hours in terms of both availability and time cost. Why not make it easier for everyone to be informed about what they are eating, and ask that fast food purveyors rise to the challenge by offering us both information and healthier choices.

I can see this new labeling law, coming into effect January 2011, changing the face of dining out in a good way. If people choose to eat at restaurants that offer nutritional information on the menu more often, these restaurants will become more competitive. If this model is more successful, smaller chains and one-offs might follow. When I was a kid, we didn't eat outside the home often. Maybe once a month, maybe less. But my mother was a housewife until I was about 11, and after that she worked part time until going to graduate school. Many American don't have the luxury of a work-at-home person to shop for and prepare healthy meals these days. As our reliance on dining out for convenience and cost increases, a need for a change in the model has developed. I cannot wait to see how the market responds.

Now, if we could just find something inexpensive, easy to eat in the car and healthy all at the same time. Oh, wait. We call that fruit.


SinoSoul said...

my eyes are burning. (tho this morning, I did have a Subway brekki sammie - it was $2!!! and really fast!!! don't tell anyone)

Kitten with a Whisk said...

I try to limit myself to fast food once a week at most. We have a chain in Tampa Bay, Evos:, that I really hope grows even larger. They do soy, veggie, turkey and all organic burgers and they air bake thier breaded chicken and fries. I love the concept of this place.

Fashionable Earth said...

Just discovered EVOS and love it !!!