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McDonaldisation: A simple explanation

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You may have come across the term McDonaldisation, particularly if you have studied or work in the area of sociology. But what does Mcdonalisation actually mean?

In this post I will explain what is meant by the term McDonaldisation, how the concept has come about and whether this is in fact a good or a bad thing.


How did the concept of McDonaldisation come about?

Wow, you know you’ve made it big when a concept is named after you!

McDonald’s is the world’s largest restaurant chain by revenue, with more than 69 million daily customers in over 100 countries. Everybody is familiar with the big red M logo and most people are familiar with those symbolic fries in the red packet. So, I guess, it is not a surprise that this famous fast food chain is now the foundation for a sociological concept!

The term McDonaldization was coined by American sociologist, George Ritzer. No, George was not assessing how much burger sauce was put on the burgers and how long the fries should be cooked for, instead, he was assessing the business model and business approaches of McDonalds and applying these principles to the way that a vast number of businesses in our society nowadays operate.

To put it simply, McDonalisation is it is the adaptation of the characteristics of this fast food restaurant (namely efficiency, calculability, predictability and control) which are applied throughout various aspects of our society.

What is Mcdonaldisation?

George Ritzer introduced the concept of McDonaldisation in his 1993 book, The McDonaldization of Society.

In this text he explains that the McDonaldisation of society is what happens when society, its institutions, and its organisations demonstrate the same characteristics that are found in the fast food restaurants of McDonalds. These characteristics include: efficiency, calculability, predictability and control.

Since the time of writing, society and the way that we live has changed a lot, namely because of the rise of the digital age. This has, however, not made the concept of McDonalisation any less valid. In fact, if anything we can argue tat there is MORE control over standardisation with modern day technologies and production systems!

There have been several adapted and modernised versions of Ritzer’s text, the most recent being The McDonaldization of Society: Into the Digital Age. If you’re studying McDonalisation, this is a text that you should definitely be consulting!

Anyone who is familiar with sociology will have heard of Max Weber’s theory of how scientific rationality produced bureaucracy. This in turn became the central organising force of modern societies throughout the last century. Weber argued that modern bureaucracy was defined by hierarchical roles, compartmentalised knowledge and roles, a perceived merit-based system of employment and advancement, and the legal-rationality authority of the rule of law.

Ritzer argues that whilst many of Weber’s points remain valid and true, society has evolved. He argues that due to changes in science, economic systems, and cultures a new social structure and order, that he named McDonalisation, is now more prevalent.

This video below provides a simple explanation of McDonalisation.

The four dimensions of McDonaldisation

McDonalisation is made up of four dimensions. These are:

  • Efficiency
  • Calculability
  • Predictability
  • Control

I will explain briefly what each of these dimensions means in the context of McDonaldisation.


One important element of McDonald’s success is efficiency. The fast food chain feeds customers quickly and efficiently.

McDonalisation thus allows for the optimum method of completing a task to be adopted, allowing for the most efficient mode of production.


McDonalidisation relies on the premise that outcomes can be quantified and measured without any subjectivity.

It is all about quantity rather than quality.

That’s why they call is that Big Mac and not the Great Mac!


Businesses that adopt the McDonalisation principles have uniformity of their products and services. The products that they offer are standardised.

Every single Big Mac is made with the same ingredients. No matter where in the world you eat your McDonalds, your burger will always look, taste and cost the same.


McDonalds has a strong level of control over their business, which has grown in recent years.

Companies who demonstrate elements of McDonalidisation will move away from human labour towards non-human labour. This enable the strongest degree of control.

Is Mcdonaldisation a good or a bad thing?

As with anything, there are positive and negative viewpoints of McDonaldisation.

On the one hand, Mcdonalisation enables a far greater availability of goods and services, speed of service and convenience for customers and easy ability to compare products due to McDonalds’ uniformity.

On the other hand, McDonalisation is criticised for its lack of individuality, reduction in employments figures due to the element of control and low quality production.

McDonalisation in tourism

I’m a Travel Writer, so why am I talking about sociology you ask (or maybe you didn’t, but I will tell you anyway…). Well, society is a core part of the tourism industry! There are many businesses throughout the different types of tourism that operate under the philosophy of McDonalisation. Whilst this has positive impacts in some cases (increased efficiency, a sense of familiarity etc), it can also cause problems, especially in terms of the negative economic impacts of tourism.

Did this post help you understand McDonaldisation? If so, say thanks by leaving a comment or sharing on your social media channels!

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