Millennials? We're the problem food marketers could never have predicted.
We were raised, dutifully, on American chains dealing in flattened faux meat, jelly sweets in chemical, electric shades, and Sunny Delight 'orange juice' made with 90 per cent added sugar. They all held an illicit glamour. Celebrities endorsed them. Cool was scattered on crap like fairy dust. Hands up who begged for tomato red Pizza Hut balloon to be paraded around the town centre after your third serving of Mr Whippy drenched in Dolly Mixture back in the glory days of the nineties?
Those times are a heady memory for big business. For a generation hell bent on drinking craft beer, home grinding their ethically sourced Ethiopian coffee beans and defining ourselves according to diet (Paleo/ gluten-free/vegan/whatever) corporations are scorned in favour of start-ups with stories. In writer Eve Turrow's new book, Generation Yum, she moots the idea that we love the tactile experience of food because of the hyper-digital, virtual nature of our days. So why would we choose the mass-made for one of the few physical encounters we get?
McDonald's are the Everest of this casualty. From the US to Russia to our own little island, the fast food giant's operating profits were down 28 per cent last quarter. Ouch. And all of this bad, bad news is not for lack of trying on their part. It's hard to pass a week without some new 'innovation' being chucked into the nugget-selling ring.
There's table service at all UK outlets come October, (you place your order on a massive iPad, collect a puck and staff bring your deep-fried delights) avocado on toast in Japanese stations and, kale, egg white and turkey breakfast bowls at the chain's restaurants in California.
All this means that there's a clawing, confused scent lingering around. Like a nipped, tucked and gyrating former pop star, screeching to remain relevant and now. There's no doubt that Justin Timberlake would rather reform *NSync than chime 'I'm loving it' for the burger-dealers now - his wife has just set up a healthy kid's restaurant over in LA.
There's the cringing awkwardness of Ireland banning them from using the word 'artisan' to flog a burger with some special relish and potato in the bread. And the ultimate reality that no number of Amaro filters can turn a Big Mac into a thing of beauty. Want to Instagram your 'cheat day?' Shake Shack's got it covered. As for hangover munch to devour under the cover, Chipotle and Nando's are on every high street in the country - and raking in the profits.
When it comes to the special times, we want the look du jour: all negronis in jam jars, netted curtains at paned windows and exposed plumbing. Can garish white walls, plastic trays, brown-lidded bins and the hanging smell of cheap fat frying compete, even if there is a wheatgrass shot or the latest Gwyneth-approved 'superfood' on the menu? Simply: no.
So, McDonald's - sorry. But this charade has got to stop. It's over. Go home.