Henrieke Neumeyer
product design

The unique handling of fast food and its social aspects

On the 15 of January last year, due to the shutdown, Donald Trump invited the winning team of the Collie Football Championship to the White House for dinner and served fast food from various American chains on silver trays. Fast food has probably never been eaten which such elegance. So can we also speak of a shutdown of the eating culture?

The surreal-looking pictures encourage us to think about our current eating culture. It seems paradoxical that fast food is served on silver trays and star cuisine on wooden boards. So how is our food perceived, how do people interact with it and what effects does it have on the table gathering?

If you look at the many packages, the form-moulded food and the quick preparation, you will see that a classic McDonalds menu allows more interaction with the food than a everyday meal. While a cafeteria meal is a rather monotonous affair that hardly encourages social interaction at the table, a McDonalds meal has the potential to be a prime example from a sociological point of view. So does fast food in fact have a table culture that could set an example? The project Fast Food Interaction intensifies the individual interactions caused by the packaging and transforms it into tableware for restaurants. In this way a playful and social approach to food can be rediscovered.

Normally a tray forms a section next to the plate border, thus separating rather than connecting people while eating. At McDonalds, on the other hand, the tray serves more as a large common plate and only individual items such as burgers and drinks are taken off the tray individually. The French fries packaging tilts when you try to put it down and thus opens up for everyone at the table. The tableware Fast Food Interaction reinforces this social aspect of sharing and picks up on the tilting movement. Drinking at McDonlads, on the other hand, does not mean seeing what you actually drink. Rather, the paper cup with an only slightly transparent lid draws attention to the taste. By moving the straw in the cup, you try to get at the last bit of liquid. The project Fast Food Interaction captures this special feature and divides the cup into three segments, so that by moving the straw in each section a new taste can be explored. Similar to many fancy restaurants the Cloche is taken off the plate, at McDonalds the burger packaging is opened. Not only does the closed packaging keep the food warm, but the focus is then deliberately directed towards the food when opening it. Fast Food Interaction enhances this effect by repeating it twice. As with a matryoshka doll, the same shape is slightly smaller on the inside. This increases the perceived tension and directs the focus more and more on the food within. And while in the Noma some dishes are now also eaten with the hands, McDonalds has long recognised the benefits of tactile perception.

Fast food packaging is familiar to millions of people around the world. But they are hardly aware of the actions resulting from its use. By increasing the various interactions, on the one hand the focus is more on eating, on the other hand the community is strengthened and thus the perception as a whole is changed. In a simple way, a pure fuel supply is transformed into a special meal where exploration, focusing and conscious sharing are the main focus. The meal is clearly separated from the everyday and the need in our society for a unique experience is satisfied. Perhaps, in a certain sense, fast food really deserves to be served symbolically on silver trays.