Padova, a city of 300,000 some odd people had two chain hamburger “restaurants”: a McDonalds and a Burger King. A few months ago, the Burger King closed.
The McDonalds is right next to the train station, and stays in business because of its location (Ray Kroc, McDonalds founder always said his business was ‘real estate’). It attracts travelers from the train station, and the immigrants that congregate in the area.
The Burger King was in an area accessible to university students, and in a busy area of town, and it even had a drive-in, a novelty for many of my friends in Padova (although I don’t think anyone actually used it).
I think the fact that not even two fast-food hamburger joints can survive in a medium-sized university town is wonderfully illustrative of “voting with your feet”. If you don’t buy their food, they will close up shop, something that people in Italy, where eating well is of paramount importance, don’t have any problems with.
On the other side of the Alps, despite the well publicized, and at times violent demonstrations in France against the “golden arches”, the protesters’ compatriots continue to gobble down burgers at a rate, according to The Economist, second only to Britain within Europe.
I think this attitude towards good food is one of the “little things” I enjoy about life here. Instead of suing them because of one’s obesity or trashing McDonalds with a tractor, people here simply do not eat the bad food they offer, and therefore, they don’t do business.