Fast food provides comfort in troubled times

They queued, they ordered, they ate - after two weeks locked up at home Kiwis in level 3 raced to their local fast food joints yesterday.

But why? What was behind the race for a Big Mac or a bucket of fried chicken?

Why were thousands of New Zealanders willing to sit in their cars, some for more than an hour, to get their hands on the formerly forbidden fare.

Christchurch clinical psychologist Aimee Hanson suspected there were multiple factors driving the urgency for people to get their "much loved and missed takeaways".

"First, having been cooped up at home, the green light from the Government to go ahead and purchase takeaways likely feels reassuring," she told the Herald.

"There is an increased sense of safety and relief in engaging in some normalcy when this whole situation has been so far from our usual lives.

"There is likely increased hope, as the last move to level 3 - for those not in Auckland -led to a long reprieve from Covid restrictions."

Hanson said a second factor was that culturally, Kiwis tend to celebrate events or milestones with "treat" foods.

"Perhaps we are celebrating getting through level 4 or those celebrations that may have been missed during the past two weeks," she said.

"We also tend to soothe and reward ourselves with 'treat ' food.

"We've been going through a tough time, it makes sense that we would want to rush out and buy food which makes us feel good."

She said the last factor was that "food rules backfire".

"We usually impose these on ourselves to be 'healthier' or lose weight.

"In this case, they have been imposed by the Government.

"Regardless, 'not being allowed' to have certain foods, drives cravings for that very food."

Burger lovers queue at McDonald's in Linwood. Photo: George Heard
Burger lovers queue at McDonald's in Linwood. Photo: George Heard
At midnight yesterday level 3 rules kicked in for the nation south of Auckland.

While we are all expected to stay home if we can, food retailers got the green light to operate again if they could offer delivery or contactless click and collect.

KFC restaurants ran out of lettuce, some had to close when other key ingredients sold out and lines of cars at McDonald's around the country snaked well out of car parks down city streets.

McDonald's spokesman Simon Kenny said the 85 restaurants that opened for Drive-Thru and "McDelivery" had a restricted menu but saw strong trading - though not as intense as last time the country emerged from L4 lockdown in 2020.

"Most restaurants saw an initial rush of eager customers when they opened, and things were then steady through the morning, but not huge queues like last year.

"Then, as you'd expect, we saw things get busy again over lunchtime and dinner.

"Big Mac, cheeseburgers and McNuggets were the most popular items, and there were no reports of any stock issues."

The busiest restaurant was Frankton in Hamilton, followed by Hastings and Porirua.

Nutritionist Nikki Hart also thought there were several factors behind people converging on convenience foods.

"It may be because many people haven't had facilities to cook or are not educated about basic cooking skills," she lamented.

"The art of cooking is actually being lost so when it comes to lockdown people do not have skills or equipment to store, prepare and make nourishing food."

She said takeaways were also seen as comfort food by many.

Photo: Geoff Sloan
Photo: Geoff Sloan
And some missed the "known sameness" of fast food.

"You are always guaranteed to get the same thing no matter what country you are in with McDs - now that is amazing, and we are conditioned to that."

It was also a "very busy day" at Burger King restaurants.

"In the lead up to reopening we worked closely with our supply partners to ensure our restaurants were well stocked to reopen with the full BK menu available and remain open until close of trade late last night," said spokeswoman Andrea Spearman.

"It seemed as though Kiwis' tastes were varied after a couple of weeks in lockdown as our tops selling products ranged from Burger King's signature burgers like Whopper, BK Chicken and plant-based Rebel burgers, through to sides like Onion Rings and Nuggets and, for the sweet toothed guest, BKs Hershey Pie.

"But the number one seller everyone was clearly craving and which seemed to be a sneaky add-on to a lot of orders, was the famous BK Creamy Mayo Cheeseburger.

"Overall we saw larger than normal orders being placed suggesting Kiwis were putting safety first with people doing a BK run for their whole bubble."















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