Tagged: mcdonalds

Beefscapes

Studies Of Burger Territory

And now, we present four regional zooms of the burger territory maps, similar to the originals except that they represent the two most influential franchises at each point on the beefscape.  As before, the underlying metric is our fanciful, inverse-squared, earth-penetrating burger force, as broadcast by the 36,000-plus U.S. restaurant locations of the eight largest chopped-sirloin-slingin’ chains.

We intend these maps as abstract studies of geography, marketing, and consumption, in which the patterns and shapes matter more than the particulars of the involved corporations.  However, for completeness sake, know that we colored each point with a 2-to-1 blend of the hues of the first and second-most influential chains per our original scheme: black for McDonald’s, red for Burger King, yellow for Wendy’s, magenta for Jack In The Box, periwinkle for Sonic, cream for Dairy Queen, green for Carl’s Jr., and cyan for Hardee’s.

Let’s start with a view of East Texas, Louisiana, and Mississippi:

East Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi

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A Disturbance In The Force

McDonald's Versus The Competition

Imagine, if you will, the burger force – a field of energy that radiates from every freshly-cooked patty, earth-penetrating and inverse-squared with distance, compelling the hungry carnivore to seek out and devour the well-done ground beef at the source.

Now, wrap that concept in a Star Wars motif – set in the present day, with the second-tier burger chains as the rebels – each, by themselves, without mutual aid, battling the 12,000-plus restaurant McEmpire.  The situation is most dire, for the upstarts control but a few significant islands of territory amid the overwhelming and darkly-rendered influence of the McForce:

The territory controlled by the top 8 U.S. burger chains.

Territory controlled by the eight largest U.S. burger chains.

In this and the following graphic, each individual restaurant location has equal power.  The entity that controls each point casts the most aggregate burger force upon it, as calculated by the inverse-square law – kind of like a chart outlining the gravitational wells of galactic star clusters, but in an alternate, fast food universe.

By far, the largest pocket of resistance is Sonic Drive-In’s south-central stronghold: more than 900 restaurants packed into the state of Texas alone.  Sheer density is the key to victory!

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The Hungry Midwest

America's Heartland And McDonald's

Say what you may about Midwesterners, but one thing is for certain: they love to eat!  With that in mind, I proudly unveil the first in a series of zooms of the McDistance Map – the Midwest United States as visualized by the distance to the nearest McDonald’s:

The Midwestern United States, visualized by distance to the nearest McDonald's. Click on the image for a larger version!

The Midwestern United States, visualized by distance to the nearest McDonald's. Click on the image for a larger version!

At this scale, the individual McFiefdoms become more apparent.  To the northwest, they cluster in tense armistice at Minneapolis, and counter-clockwise from there, at Omaha, Kansas City, St. Louis, Indianapolis, the sundry cities of Ohio, and points east.  Running with the feudal metaphor, imagine the manager of each location, late at night, climbing to the red-tiled roof, donning his crown, and declaring “I am master of all I survey!”  Oh, wait…  That’s what they do at Burger King.  Nevermind!

In the heart of the Midwest, we’re hard-pressed to find a viable McVoid, with the conspicuous exception of the large, pickle-shaped gap at the center of our map: Lake Michigan.  Come summertime, fishermen, jetskiers, and party boaters frolic on its crystal waters by the thousands.  Everyone’s living large and playing hard until, seemingly without warning, things get ugly: they’re offshore and famished.  To the Eager Entrepreneur, would McDonald’s sell a franchise-on-a-barge?  With a Boat Thru, preferably?

Home to eight million hungry mouths, the Chicago Metropolitan Area hugs Lake Michigan’s southwestern shores.  There, in suburban Des Plaines, Ray Kroc, founder of the present-day McDonald’s corporation, opened his first location in April of 1955.  This wasn’t the debut Micky Dee’s, however, for Kroc licensed the concept from brothers “Dick” and “Mac” McDonald, who had already established a small but successful collection of their namesake restaurants.  For more information regarding that somewhat cantankerous saga, read this.

Number of McDonald’s in the entire state of Illinois, sixty years ago: zero.  Within the fifty-mile purview of the Sears Tower’s 103rd-floor Skydeck, today: 424!

On this side of the country, Michigan’s Upper Peninsula wins the dubious distinction of Most McUnderendowed, by a landslide.  Understandably, mind you, for the bears keep tearing apart the restaurants, and the cultivated tastebuds of the discerning Yooper are not easily impressed.  Who needs Micky Dee’s when you got da pasties, eh?

Once again, thanks to AggData for providing the geolocated McDonald’s location information that made these maps possible.  To view the full, coast-to-coast McDistance Map, see my original post, entitled “Where The Buffalo Roamed.”

Where The Buffalo Roamed

How Far Can You Get From McDonald's?

This summer, cruising down the I-5 through California’s Central Valley to the Los Angeles Basin, I unwittingly stumbled upon a most exasperating development: the country strip mall.  First, let me state that I don’t hate.  I’ve got nothing against Petco, Starbucks, OfficeMax, et al.  When overcome by the desire for a cubic yard of kitty litter, a carafe of pre-Columbian frappasmoochino, or fifty gross of pink highlighter pens, I’m there in a jiffy!

But, Mr. Real Estate Tycoon, did you have to plop your shopping center smack dab in the middle of what was previously nowhere?  Okay, the land was cheap.  And yes, you did traffic studies and proved that the interstate and distant suburbs would drench whatever you built in a raging torrent of eager consumerism.  But your retail monstrosity drains the wildness from the countryside for twenty miles in every direction!  Sure, you can’t see it from everywhere – but once you know it’s there, you feel it.  In the rural drawl of a neighboring rancher, that flat-out sucks!

Which begs the question: just how far away can you get from our world of generic convenience?  And how would you figure that out?

As I hurtled down the highway, a pair of golden arches crept over the horizon, and the proverbial lightbulb smacked me in the forehead.  To gauge the creep of cookie-cutter commercialism, there’s no better barometer than McDonald’s – ubiquitous fast food chain and inaugural megacorporate colonizer of small towns nationwide.

So, I set out to determine the farthest point from a Micky Dee’s – in the lower 48 states, at least.  This endeavor required information, and the nice folks at AggData were kind enough to provide it to me: a complete list of all 13,000-or-so U.S. restaurants, in CSV format, geolocated for maximum convenience.  From there, a bit of software engineering gymnastics, and…

Behold, a visualization of the contiguous United States, colored by distance to the nearest domestic McDonald’s!

The contiguous United States, visualized by distance to the nearest McDonald's.  Click on the image for a larger version!

The contiguous United States, visualized by distance to the nearest McDonald's. Click on the image for a larger version!

You can download a bigger, wallpaper-ready version of the visualization, too!

As expected, McDonald’s cluster at the population centers and hug the highway grid.  East of the Mississippi, there’s wall-to-wall coverage, except for a handful of meager gaps centered on the Adirondacks, inland Maine, the Everglades, and outlying West Virginia.

For maximum McSparseness, we look westward, towards the deepest, darkest holes in our map: the barren deserts of central Nevada, the arid hills of southeastern Oregon, the rugged wilderness of Idaho’s Salmon River Mountains, and the conspicuous well of blackness on the high plains of northwestern South Dakota.  There, in a patch of rolling grassland, loosely hemmed in by Bismarck, Dickinson, Pierre, and the greater Rapid City-Spearfish-Sturgis metropolitan area, we find our answer.

Between the tiny Dakotan hamlets of Meadow and Glad Valley lies the McFarthest Spot: 107 miles distant from the nearest McDonald’s, as the crow flies, and 145 miles by car!

Suffer a Big Mac Attack out there, and you’re hurtin’ for certain!  For a coupla hours, at least, unless graced by the tender blessings of “manna from heaven” – that is, a fast food air drop from the Medi-Copter.

Update: See “The Hungry Midwest” for a regional zoom of this map.