Why is there no fast food in this city?

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 As seen in the Nov. 8 issue

Braden Bochner, staff writer
Juliette Deutsch, staff writer

Beverly Hills is home to a dynamic culinary scene. The city has dozens of restaurants with cuisines ranging from Italian to Japanese to French. However, if one is in the mood for fast-food they will have to venture outside of Beverly Hills.

The City of Beverly Hills has no specific law prohibiting the opening of fast food restaurants.

However, there are codes of law which make it hard for restaurants like these to be successful. A major issue is restaurants’ drive-through services.

“There is a requirement for any establishment, food or otherwise, which is requesting a drive through capability, [and] to apply for a CUP or conditional use permit,” Beverly Hills City Councilman Dr. Julian Gold said. “This permit defines the use of the drive through, hours of operation, restrictions on noise and number of cars.”

Due to the difficulty of parking in Beverly Hills and the general traffic patterns of the city, one-way streets for example, a drive-thru fast food establishment would create more traffic and clog the already busy city streets.

“While the Conditional Use Permit requirement may discourage some fast-food businesses from seeking to establish a traditional drive-through site layout in the city, it does not prohibit it. I would also add that high land costs and limited site availability and location may also have an impact on establishing the more traditional drive-through fast-food restaurants,”  Senior planner at the Community Development Department of the Beverly Hills City Council, Ryan Golich, said.

The majority of the city’s commercial properties are found in what is known as the Business Triangle. The Business Triangle can be found within the borders of Santa Monica Boulevard, North Rexford and Wilshire Boulevard. Consequently, a fast-food restaurant with a drive-through would cause conflict in a business oriented area filled with pedestrians. Another restriction that the city imposes on restaurants is the ban of tall signage, which would make it difficult for a restaurant such as McDonald’s, known for its tall signature golden arches, to promote their business.

While the city does not define “fast food,” certain chain-restaurants have been able to do better than others.

“In fact, the city is currently home to a number of fast-food-type restaurants such as Chipotle, Subway and Jersey Mike’s, and, in the near future, a Fat Burger is planned to open on South Santa Monica Boulevard,” Golich said.

Changing fast food standards

For years, many fast food restaurants have been under investigation regarding the production and quality of their products. In 2001, Eric Schlosser’s “Fast Food Nation: The Dark Side of the All-American Meal” exposed the fast-food industry. Schlosser investigated the way fast food chains manufacture their food, such as chemical flavoring, the raising and processing of cattle, as well as the dangers of eating such meat. Schlosser’s book brought the fast food industry’s flaws to the public’s attention.

McDonald’s has always been subject to criticism and investigation. Just this past month, The American Journal of Medicine published an article titled “The Autopsy of Chicken Nuggets” that revealed the actual ingredients in a chicken nugget. The study compared two chicken nuggets from unidentified fast-food chains. In addition to chemical additives and preservatives, researchers discovered that the nuggets were composed of 50 percent or less chicken muscle tissue and the rest were made of blood vessels, pure fat, bones, nerves and cartilage.

In addition to Schlosser’s book, McDonald’s was the subject of the 2004 documentary “Super Size Me”. Director Morgan Spurlock ate nothing but McDonald’s menu items over a 30-day period. Spurlock’s documentary gave viewers a look at the negative effects of fast food and the toll it can take on the body.

Since then, fast food chains have revised their mission statements and have included the calories of each item on their menus. McDonald’s developed a low-calorie “Snack Wrap” and began to add more fruit and vegetable alternatives to their menus. Burger King introduced “Satisfries” which promises to deliver 40 percent less fat than regular fries.

Newer chain restaurants like Chipotle pride themselves on the “integrity” of their food and are very transparent with the stages behind the production of their product.

Chipotle is one of the many restaurants trying to reinvent America’s typical standards behind fast food. Chipotle’s “Food with Integrity” campaign allows consumers to take a look at the way Chipotle manufactures their product, as well as the quality of their food. According to Chipotle, their campaign is a commitment to “changing traditional ‘fast food’ culture by serving customers the very best ingredients.” The company works with family owned and operated farms where animals are naturally raised without hormones and are vegetarian-fed.

Students weigh in 

Typically when students go out to eat, their first concern is the price. Students like quality food at a relatively good price that is not going to break their wallets. Therefore, places such as Chipotle, Subway and Jersey Mikes are favorites among Beverly students because of convenience, price and consistency.

“I enjoy eating at Chipotle for a fast food option, because it is convenient and good. I know what I’m getting each time and it is inexpensive,” sophomore Sydney Tran said. “It would be nice to have other fast-food options in Beverly Hills though, so that when I am in a rush I can grab something else.”

However, some do not agree that the city should have more fast food options to choose from.

“I think that having places such as McDonald’s and other fast food chains would definitely be disruptive for traffic purposes. Also, these places aren’t that healthy and it’s better to have other fast food options that are healthier and do not cause extra traffic,” senior Tori Hertz said.

While restaurants like Chipotle and McDonald’s may both be considered fast food, there is a distinct difference between the food preparation at each establishment. Fast food is considered food that can be quickly and easily prepared; however, many chains are changing the model of fast food, by providing consumers with quality ingredients and reliable service.

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