No-tech vs deep fried: McDonald’s ‘offline day’ gives UAE tough family choice

‘A Day Offline’ initiative on September 28 asks patrons to switch phones, laptops and tablets off for a day

Junk food versus 24-hour internet access. Which is more detrimental to residents in the UAE?

McDonald’s Arabia, by no means representing the junk food industry, is launching its ‘A Day Offline’ initiative on September 28 and asking patrons to switch off their phones, laptops and tablets on the D-day in order to enjoy a family meal.

Rafic Fakih, Managing Director, McDonald’s UAE, told, Emirates 24|7: “We have launched this initiative to encourage families across the region to spend more quality time together.

“Nowadays, people have become obsessed with technological devices to the point where many no longer enjoy the simple act of spending quality time with the family- the most important source of support.”

McDonald’s side order with this meal of a plan has several UAE residents questioning whether it would be better to go a day without burgers and fries.

M Baccouche says: “It would have been better for McDonald’s to propose a day without hamburgers and fries and they shut all their shops.

Their junk food hurts much more than the technology does all together.

“Friday ( September 28) is when expats get in touch with their friends and families overseas. A day without driving, a day without smoking, a day without screaming at colleagues and subordinates, a day without firing.. this is what the ME needs the most...”

Although Rama Chakaki says she loves the campaign, she asks: “Such a campaign is much needed, especially in the Middle East... but shouldn't McDonald’s be tackling issues related to its industry aka junk food, obesity, non-recyclable styrofoam packaging.”

The facts

Let’s weigh what the research states.

According to the 2012 Regus Work-Life Balance Index, 57 per cent of the UAE’s business community believes they spend more time devoted to their work than with their families.

A recent Ipsos survey found nearly 40 per cent of the UAE people are suffering from obesity.

The survey covered hundreds of people from various nationalities within the age group 18-55 years and was carried out through March and April for Daman national health insurance company.

“The survey found that nearly 40 per cent of those checked are suffering from obesity… it covered a large number of people, including Emiratis, other Arabs, Asians and Westerners.”

In addition, a team of European researchers published their work in BMC Public Health journal that ranked the UAE fifth in the world among the “Heaviest 10” category, with an average adult in the UAE weighing approximately 76kg, about 14kg heavier than the global average of 62kg.

Feed the idea

McDonald’s, for its part, is not just paying lip service to the campaign. It is organising several children’s activities till the month-end across its UAE outlets to mark the occasion.

Starting from September 14, it has kept phone “vaults” – phone-sized containers with adhesive closures –at McDonald’s outlets across the UAE to help family members resist the temptation of checking mobile devices during family time.

Joining the initiative doesn’t mean a free meal. “There will be no prizes. Our main focus is to highlight the importance of spending family time amongst families in the UAE.”

Fakih says their website, mcdonaldsarabia.com, will be offline on the day and their initiative will not impact their logistics.

“The initiative is designed to create awareness of the importance of spending quality time together, however, we hope through our activities that we will encourage people to consider this throughout the year, not just for one day,” Fakih informs.

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