Earlier I mentioned in passing the switch from Burger King to Wendy's as my go-to fast food place. Having gone there for awhile longer now, I notice several other things that make it a much more enjoyable experience than the alternatives. This is based on just the one I normally go to, but even if they're not typical, they've been allowed to remain by the corporation, rather than systematically gutted by efficiency experts, and that still speaks well of Wendy's.
- Booths with cushioning for both your back and butt, and in a red color. You hardly ever find seating that's comfortable and nice to look at in ordinary fast food restaurants anymore.
- Actual plaster on the sloping part of the ceiling, although the flat part of it is covered with the standard sterile acoustic panels. It isn't architectural splendor, but little details like seeing a texture on the walls or ceiling goes a long way to making the place feel alive instead of a glass-and-concrete machine for eating.
- Much better music. Burger King's wasn't unbearable like Starbucks, but it leaned too far toward Nickelback and Norah Jones. That junk shows up in Wendy's too, but there's a lot more '80s pop rock / adult contemporary, so you're guaranteed to hear a pleasing melody and some catchy riffs during your meal. In just a few weeks, I've heard multiple songs by Phil Collins, Steve Winwood, The Police, Belinda Carlisle, and "Don't Dream It's Over" was playing when I walked in today.
- People actually stay in the dining room to eat, and what's more, they're not fags, freaks, druggies, or crazies. It feels like it did back in more outgoing times, when everyone ate outside the house. It's not just a white yuppie sanctuary, or a hang-out for food stampers. It's men and women, children, teenagers, adults, and elderly, black, white, and other, professional and just-scraping-by.
This all seems to be in keeping with its overall conservative orientation. It's not heaven on Earth, but that's the wrong way to look at things. Everyday life should be enjoyable too, and these seemingly simple features used to be standard not very long ago.