Ohio and California Decide What You Get to Eat
Quick! List three things you know about Columbus, Ohio. And none of them can be that it was named after the explorer or a famous bus made of columns. What have you got? Nothing? Well, hang on to your butts, because we're about to blow them away with knowledge. If you enjoy fast food, there's an amazing chance that the good people of Columbus, Ohio, are the ones who picked your menu. That's right -- your local McDonald's won't get the new Cool Ranch Bacon McRib unless a few random citizens in Columbus give it the thumbs up.
"We accept bribes in the form of heart transplants."
To understand why, you have to get into the mind of a fast food chain. Before they risk millions of dollars on a new burger or stupid-sounding smoothie, they'd better be sure that the thing isn't going to flop. After all, no one wants to be known as the dummy who came up with the McAfrika burger. And Columbus happens to be the perfect test lab. For one thing, the demographics of the city mirror the rest of the nation; Columbus doesn't have a bunch of vegetarians or Eskimos clogging up the population and skewing fast food test results. It's a pure mini-America.
For another, Columbus is a bustling college town. When college students aren't busy cramming or emptying their bongs, they're "tweeting" and "Facebooking" and "Linkedining" about how great their lunch was. Finally, Columbus' geography semi-isolates it from other major cities, which is a good thing when you're testing an ad campaign or product. When your market is contained in one spot, it's easier to tell if they're actually hearing/seeing/feeling what you're putting out.
Kazuhiro Nogi / Getty
"After weeks of intensive testing, we've decided to continue not pooping in the shake machine."
All of this adds up to a town with almost 20 national fast food headquarters clandestinely testing their fries and steak sandwiches in local restaurants. When Wendy's wants to try out a new burger, they do a mini-test in Columbus to determine if the product is good enough to go nationwide. Living in Columbus is like living in a fast food future, aka utopia.