The Fast Food Wars

The Fast Food Wars were started and waged, over all things, over who owns the intellectual patents on food. This might seem silly at first, but when the wars started, there were things like the Council on Ethnic and Cultural Affairs (CECA), the Bureau of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI), and similar organizations. Many of these fought legal battles on what many would consider racist grounds. It was argued that certain things belonged to certain races and cultures and that a person not of said race or associated with said culture, was guilty of cultural appropriation. At that time, such action was legally a misdemeanor and subject to fines, confiscations, and even relatively short stints in prison.

Attempts were made to circumvent this new legal paradigm since, by its rulings, the staff inside a kitchen could be legally held to only make their own ethnic cuisines. More than one large operation was put out of business because it was noted that the entire cooking staff in the French restaurant were all ethnically Gautamaluans, Ecuadorians, and other Latinx people. This created a cascading reaction as many popular foods were not associated with a specific ethnicity and culture, but were the products of immigrants in a country other than their homeland. Pizza, hamburgers, french fries, hot dogs, anglicized Chinese Food, and more fell under the umbrella of American food, and some successfully sued and had them christened as Eurocentric foods. If you weren't German, you couldn't make sausage or saurkraut. Not Irish? Not scotch eggs, no fish and chips.

Unexpected Consequences

The originators of the cultural protection acts and associated laws had as their intent to protect ethnic culture and cuisine from being racially appropriated by non-ethnic peoples for its exploitation. This was the long explanation, the short explanation was that it was a legal action to restrict white people from accessing ethnic and cultural legacies that weren't their own. The utopian model had ethnic enclaves appearing, and that ethnic people from their home countries could travel to industrialized modern nations (large, wealthy, stripped of their own respective ethnicity and culture because they had money and markets to exploit) and set themselves up. If you want more tacos, better accept more Latinx immigrants and hope they get good financing options to open more ethnic and cultural options for you generic wealthy colonizers.

What they got were copyright patents and infringement lawsuits.

As franchises were merging into super-conglomerates and gaining the backing of the various big agriculture corporations, they were also gathering armies of lawyers and a war chest. The different fast-food chains started laying intellectual claim to the things they made, going in guns blazing for their opposition, and then anyone who infringed on their new claim. Initially, it was seen as a matter of amusement, watching pizza, burger, and taco chains go into litigation against each other. Then it was less so after the dust settled, and if you made hamburgers, you had to pay a licensing or royalty fee to the winner, Vanguard-Hohenheim-Pfizer. Alternately you could rebrand as a franchise of their flagship, McDonald's.

Then they came for the mom and pops, the regional franchises, and even the grocery stores.

Hamburger buns?

Round sandwich buns or McDonald's brand Hamburger (TM) buns.

You're an ethnic German and you have ethnic and cultural rights to make hamburgers? Sorry sir, Hamburger (TM) is the IP of Vanguard-Hohenheim-Pfizer, and if you wish to take this to the courts we are more than willing, but we will be contacting the appropriate agencies to put a halt on your credit and bank accounts until you either accept the cease and desist, or such time as you win your potential court case.

The New Face of the War

Following the Great Consolidation, fast food choices decreased drastically. A small number of mega-franchises and their corporate owners decided that there was no need for a city to have six competing burger outlets, and instead minimized their physical footprint and strategically placed their operations for coverage, almost like broadcast towers. This effect became even more pronounced as automation flowed into the industry and the first iRestaurants went into service.

There were riots.

Locations were attacked and buildings were firebombed.

Litigation intensified. Taco Bell's holding company went after stores that carried non-licensed Tex-Mex ingredients, they also went after the companies that made those goods. As this process went on, the food supply chain shortened, centralized, and consolidated under a small number of corps.

The Death of the Cuisine

After the automated joints went into full service, and the supply was throttled, the corporate planning and foresight divisions were able to make their play. Menus were greatly reduced. Everything was streamlined and optimized. Most franchises went from having a decent menu to having offerings constrained to four to six items. Choice was a casualty of the war. This was amplified by the fact that if the burger offerings at one place weren't good, there was no reason to look anywhere else, it was all the same operation, running the same menu, and using data tracking and biometric tagging, people going to restaurants outside of their optimal location could see price adjustments. If you are willing to travel twelve miles to this location instead of just two for the location near you, you can pay a twelve percent price increase.

With this efficiency, few outfits that survived the first battles of the war were able to compete. The victorious chains could run economy of scale and localized price controls to undercut and put almost any rival out of business. That isn't even considering any sort of Shadowrun operations, and more than one business that escaped the war was ended after a tragic fire and loss of property. Non-franchisable ethnic cuisines, being too labor-intensive, not easily packaged or being culinarily challenging avoided the war. A place specializing in Russian cuisine, soups, Indian (in places like North America) could see its business picking up as people wanted something other than what was being offered. Then, one day there was financial sabotage, arson, vicious inspections from health officials, to owners and operators being assaulted, coerced, or even murdered.

It was an ugly time to be making food.

Entire cuisines vanished from geographical regions. Profit and efficiency were the great goals, and it was believed that if the people weren't given a choice, they would more readily accept what was offered.

The food dispensary proved how true this ended up being.

Food as an act of Rebellion

In the Cosmic Era, food is almost a relic from the past. Most people have lived their entire lives on textured, colored, flavored nutrient paste products. Restaurants as known in the Petroleum Era are the domain of the wealthy and the powerful. Non-artificially produced food is a luxury. Meat from butchered animals, actual produce, and the rest is incredibly expensive. Some of this is based on the more environmentally focused CE where the costs of growing something inefficient like tree fruit is financially discouraged to limit the demand on natural resources. You can have all the pelletized nutz you want, but actual from a tree almonds, not gonna happen.

Thus, people who explore their old ethnic cuisines, who learn how to cook and make things from scratch, are social rebels. It is still possible to get many basic ingredients or the simulation of them, and with a jailbroken CE: Kitchenette station, a person could reformulate the old recipes. One of the attractions of the geofront, and the favelas is for city dwellers to leave the culinary confines of their gleaming homes for the dark and dirty offerings from the underclass.

Yeah, the new McSling is pretty okay, but last week I went down to Tashee Gate, you know down on sub one, and there was a woman there selling actual meat sandwiches, even calling them hamburgers. One of the locals said I was eating rat, and I'm not really sure what a rat is, but it was pretty fucking tasty.

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