It is undeniable that St Andrews is a truly beautiful place to live. We’re incredibly lucky, sandwiched between the roaring North Sea and lush, green fields, packed with buildings oozing with history and charming cobbled streets. Some say that its charisma is utterly dependent on the omission of modern fast food restaurants, but I pose this question to you: would a majestic pair of golden arches really hamper our vista any more than the green and yellow Subway sign or the Students’ Union (after all, I’ve heard many refer to the recent renovations as an attempt to ‘polish the turd’)? I think not. If tourists are prepared to travel from all over the world to admire the beauty of our Tesco, or the wonderful proportions of our WHSmith, I see no reason why they would object to a KFC.
McDonalds is, quite literally, everywhere: there is one opposite Windsor Castle and even one beneath the Museum of Communism in Prague. If these unlikely tourist attractions can stomach Ronald McDonald without losing any of their charm, why do residents worry about the effect similar fast food chains could have on St Andrews?
They wouldn’t necessarily have to be in the centre of town. I’m not suggesting we open a KFC concession in the middle of Sallies Quad. There is plenty of space in St Andrews, including the less traditionally attractive parts to which we’ve relegated our Morrisons and Aldi. Fast food restaurants there would not directly impinge on the town’s natural beauty and would be ready and waiting when a student is in desperate need of a Bargain Bucket.
Many opponents of the Whopper’s appearance on Market Street will state that fast food chains have a reputation for encouraging anti-social behaviour. I would refer these critics to Empire anytime from around midnight on a Friday. I’ve seen some particularly inebriated people frequenting some of our current fast food establishments and while they are a little rowdy, slightly confused and very greasy at the end of it all, I wouldn’t say any of them constituted an anti-social danger. More fast food chains could actually ameliorate the situation – at the end of a long night, starving students would be split between more than just Dervish and Empire, thereby reducing noise level and the possibility of an altercation in any one area.
There are many other benefits for students besides the ability to satisfy a craving for chicken McNuggets at all hours. Fast food chains are famous for their decent pay and low-hour contracts. St Andrews lacks many short-term employment opportunities; if McJobs became available in St Andrews, McDonalds would be inundated with applications.
Finally, large corporations like KFC, Burger King and McDonalds have the resources to actually give back to the community. In the United Kingdom, McDonalds runs community projects to encourage physical activity in youngsters. We wouldn’t be inviting evil, greedy, irresponsible businesses into St Andrews – just ones with reasonably priced food produced to international standards.
There are few credible arguments to defend decisions to keep fast food chains out. Fast food chains aren’t essential to St Andrews’ improvement by any stretch of the imagination, but considering other additions to our town it seems reasonable to import more of them.
St Andrews is often referred to as the Bubble. This affectionate term refers to the way students feel detached from the rest of the world during the semester. Being located no less than two hours from the nearest city can have this effect – but the literal isolation makes St Andrews all the more unique and invigorating.
Perhaps international students understand this notion even more so, since their everyday eating destinations have changed – instead of your traditional chain restuarants and cafes, St. Andrews also has many distinctive and popular places like Zizzi’s, Nam Jim’s, and Jannetta’s. What happens when common fast food chains start to plant their roots here in St. Andrews? It is rumoured that we will soon enjoy the benefits of a new Domino’s Pizza in town. Is this good news?
St Andrews already has Nando’s, as well as other international chains such as Subway and Starbucks. Embedded among other small shops on Market Street, these stores do not fit in with the rest of the quaint St Andrews townscape. As student Avica Kumar says: “I’m actually glad we don’t have stores like Primark or any other big stores, because it keeps the St Andrews atmosphere intact. We already have all of those types of stores in Dundee or Edinburgh, soifwewanttogowecan,butSt Andrews is separate. It also encourages us to go explore other nearby towns!”
She makes a good point. When students are a long way away from home, they often seek out familiar brands as a means for comfort in a new environment. But while these places may offer a taste of home, what can McDonalds do for you that Dervish can’t? Late at night, when all we want is the taste of something sure to shorten our life expectancy, we won’t care so much where our chips are coming from so long as they are coming. What’s better, on many late nights out you can hear a chorus of students calling for these beloved local places by name, begging their inebriated friends to tag along with them. Our local restaurants have replaced and overshadowed their brand name equivalents.
With new fast food places in town come more choices, but do we need more choices beyond what we already have? Drunk students will have to decide between several different late-night eating establishments. Perhaps students will decide to wander into the local McDonalds or Domino’s instead of Dervish or Empire. As one Dervish employee reluctantly put it: “Competition is competition, it’s going to happen.”
But she did state that: “[We’re] not really bothered by it at the moment, we’ve got our set customers.”
This statement shifted my perspective on the issue. Current St Andrews students have a ingrained affection for late night places where they can get greasy food to satisfy their cravings. Those of us who have already experienced Empire or Tailend’s greatness are not likely to sway from our favourites. Simply put, we don’t really need any new establishments.
But what about new students? Students who already know and love all that these notoriously satisfying restaurants have to offer will undoubtedly continue to go, but new students may not feel the need to explore these unique treasures and default to places they already know. This would be a shame, as we know all good nights end at either Dervish or Empire.
Late-night food stops have become a ritual and necessity amongst all fun-loving St Andrews students. As one anonymous student insisted to me: “I don’t care. I will always be loyal to Empire.”