Friday, February 19, 2010

You Will Eat What You Are Offered ... or something else?

How many menus does your favourite restaurant have? One? I would think at least one, but why more? The menu is the presentation of the food on offer - you look at the menu and the prices and decide to go in and eat or to walk on to another restaurant tonight.

At least, that's how I always though life was lived.

In France there's a chain of restaurants called "Quick". Rather like Burger King - they're all over the place. Very convenient and usually very clean when you want to stop in and have a quick (sorry!) bite en route to somewhere. Emergency food. You look at the menu, see what you want, check you're not allergic to it, buy it and eat.

It seems that the politicians in France have a different idea about how a restaurant should be run. In the small city of Roubaix, near Lille in the Nord region of France, the eight local Quick restaurants noticed that a lot of people in the area weren't using the restaurant because, it seemed, they had pork and bacon in their food. As you can imagine, people who have a religious objection to eating pork - like Jews and Muslims, for example - would not be buying a double-bacon pork-burger!

So the enterprising managers pulled the pork from the menu, replacing it with, for example, bacon made from turkey. They then got approval (how isn't clear) to declare that the restaurants served only halal food. Of course, this was too much for the local council, and the mayor took out a law suit against the restaurant, accusing it of discrimination and urging it to offer food to suite a wider range of tastes.

Of course, this would be difficult, because mixing halal and haraam seems to be almost impossible. In addition, it seems ludicrous, as the Quick chain, by its very nature, appeals only to a certain portion of the population - one could hardly imagine M. Sarkozy and wife popping down to the local Quick (there are two on the Avenue des Champs Elysées) - but for the group that does frequent such restaurants (15-25 years old, 80% male) one can see that if a town's proportion of people who won't eat, for example, broccoli, is increasing then one tends to drop the broccoli. In this case it's pork.

Now, on the other hand, one should look at the background across the country. The french people (not the recent immigrants) see themselves as historically descended from the Franks who, under Charles Martel, threw back the Moors at the Battle of Poitiers (Tours) in 732. As a result, they are somewhat sensitive to the increase of muslim influences in their country. A lot of French people appear also to think that they are going to be overrun by a wave of muslims as the current generation start bearing children. Demographically, while France is suddenly one of the most fertile countries in Europe, this doesn't appear to be the case (ref).

So here we have a case where politicians of both sides are up in arms over a commercial move, and are trying to use ill-founded public belief to gather popular support for their cause. Can anyone think of anything similar anywhere in the last two hundred years? No prizes for guesses :)

No [Tech] this time - I'm too busy studying!

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