In some parts of the world, good food is food prepared with care, attention, and a plenty of time. This sort of food philosophy, where meals are made with fresh ingredients and patience, doesn’t lend itself well to fast food where cheap ingredients are premade so they can be warmed and slapped together in record-time. This sort of food dichotomy is exactly why McDonald’s couldn’t thrive in Bolivia—the first Latin America country to essentially kick the fast-food-giant out by keeping them in the red.
McDonald’s restaurants operated in Bolivia for 14 years. In 2002, they had to shutter their final remaining 8 stores because they simply couldn’t turn a profit—and if you know fast food companies, you know it’s not because they didn’t try.
The Golden Arches sunk plenty of money into marketing and campaigning—trying to get the food-loving Bolivians to warm to their French fries and burgers, but it simply wasn’t happening.
Some 60 percent of Bolivians are indigenous. “Fast” and processed foods are simply a foreign concept to them. Why would you pay someone to provide you with a less-than-delicious and unhealthy alternative to real food? This attitude is one that the U.S. fast food nation could learn a thing or two from.
Opposition to McDonald’s in Bolivia didn’t have to be super organized; they didn’t have to protest or use petitions. Instead, they simply made healthy choices and the company couldn’t drum up enough business as a result.
The losing battle that McDonald’s fought there inspired a documentary, “Por que quebro McDonald’s en Bolivia” or “Why did McDonald’s Bolivia go bankrupt”. In it, the filmmakers use interviews with cooks, nutritionists, teachers, and everyday Bolivians to try and explain why the fast food giant couldn’t succeed there.
In addition to inspiring a documentary, Bolivia has inspired people. When you truly value food, when you really enjoy it, fast food is a poor substitute. And though some cultures still adhere to this idea, many have lost themselves in the fast and convenient world of prepackaged food-like products.
“Fast-food represents the complete opposite of what Bolivians consider a meal should be,” explained the Hispanic blog El Polvorin. “To be a good meal, food has to have been prepared with love, dedication, certain hygiene standards, and proper cook time.”
Because McDonald’s survived in Bolivia for 14 years, you can’t say the battle was a quick one. But when you consider the citizens of that country simply did what came naturally and chose health, it was an easy one.