Growing number of McSleepers in Hong Kong

he number of people sleeping in McDonald’s outlets has increased six-fold over the past five years, a trend partly driven by rising rents and substandard housing that makes life especially unbearable in the city’s baking weather, a study has found.

The survey, organised by Junior Chamber International’s Tai Ping Shan branch and conducted in June by volunteers, found 334 people had slept in a McDonald’s outlet nightly over at least the past three months. Of the 110 branches that operate 24 hours in the city, 84 had seen overnight sleepers.

This is a six-fold increase from a similar study in 2013, which found only 57 such people, popularly dubbed McRefugees or McSleepers.

A branch in Tsuen Wan hosted more than 30 sleepers, the highest among all branches, according to the latest study.

Researchers were able to interview 53 McRefugees aged between 19 and 79 in depth, and found 57 per cent of them had a job and 71 per cent of them had flats that they rented or owned, contrary to the common belief that these people tended to be jobless and homeless.

Saving on air conditioning costs, as well as comfort and security, topped a list of reasons given by these interviewees, followed by high rents, conflict with family members, the ability to develop social relations at the chain and substandard housing.

Other reasons included saving on transport costs and time to work, and seeking temporary shelter while waiting for low-rent public housing.

“Family is the basic unit in a society,” Tai Ping Shan publication commission chairwoman Jennifer Hung Sin-yu said. “Even one person who has a home but cannot return is too many. This phenomenon is worth our attention.”

Hung said the reasons given by interviewees showed that unaffordable housing had forced the poor into inferior living conditions such as subdivided flats, which subsequently drove them into McDonald’s for comfort and security.

One McRefugee renting a subdivided flat in To Kwa Wan, Hung said, told volunteers that her landlord charged her HK$16 for a unit of electricity, compared to about HK$1.10 charged by the city’s two main power suppliers.

Hung said the woman’s flat did not have any windows, which made the city’s humid and hot summer even more unbearable without air conditioning.

“She told us sometimes she couldn’t even feel the flow of the air,” Hung said.

Hong Kong is consistently ranked the world’s least affordable property market. As of the end of March, there were 270,000 applicants on the waiting list for public rental housing; the average waiting time for families or single elderly applicants was five years and one month.

Subdivided housing is the main option for these families while they wait, but it is affordable only because of the small sizes – often around 100 sq ft – of these units, which entail fire risks, poor ventilation and poor hygiene.

Besides inadequate housing, family problems are another main issue, Hung said.

One of the cases, a 19-year-old referred to in the study as Ah Lung, was a construction worker who ate, played mobile phone games and slept at a McDonald’s branch in Mong Kok. He did not want to go home due to a bad relationship with his parents, while his income enabled him to live away from home.

A 60-year-old woman was observed by volunteers as “without the unique characteristics of street sleepers”. She was well dressed, with her diamond wedding ring still on her finger. She also had a flat in the New Territories, but had nobody to share the home with her.

She and her late husband did not have any children and she felt lonely in her home and eating by herself, which was why she spent most of her time at the fast-food chain, where there were many people coming and going.

Project consultant Lee Ho-ey said the government should allocate more resources to non-governmental organisations to reach out to McRefugees, providing them with counselling and help.

Thanks to Kebmodee for bringing this to the It’s Interesting community.

Jim Delligatti, Who Created the Big Mac, Dies at Age 98

As a McDonald’s Corp. franchisee in the Pittsburgh area, Jim Delligatti in the mid-1960s believed the burgers-and-fries menu needed something bigger and jazzier. He came up with the Big Mac, tested it in one of his restaurants and saw it swiftly become a national sensation, heralding an era of ever-increasing reliance on novelty in fast food.

Mr. Delligatti died Monday at his home in Fox Chapel, a suburb of Pittsburgh, his family said. He was 98 years old.

He came up with the idea for the Big Mac in 1965 and first served it at his Uniontown, Pa., McDonald’s outlet in 1967. The hamburger features two beef patties, a mildly tangy sauce, lettuce, cheese, pickles and onions slathered over a soft sesame-seed bun sliced into three layers. The original price was 45 cents, compared with an average of about $5 today. McDonald’s put the Big Mac on its national menu in 1968.

Mr. Delligatti acknowledged that the Big Mac was derived from double-deck hamburgers made popular by rival fast-food restaurants. “This wasn’t like discovering the lightbulb,” he told the Los Angeles Times in 1993. “The bulb was already there. All I did was screw it in the socket.” Even so, his initiative helped launch McDonald’s on a long-running diversification of a menu once limited to little more than basic hamburgers, fries, shakes and soft drinks.

The corporate headquarters initially opposed Mr. Delligatti’s plan to use a triple-deck bun with sesame seeds, said Michael Delligatti, one of his sons. But the elder Mr. Delligatti went ahead with the new bun anyway. Without it, he thought, the Big Mac would be too sloppy.

In recent years, the Big Mac’s appeal has faded as McDonald’s has struggled to find ways to entice customers back from rivals whose food is widely seen as fresher, healthier and hipper. The Big Mac “has gotten less relevant,” a top McDonald’s franchisee wrote in a memo to other operators in July. Only one in five millennials has tried a Big Mac, the memo said.

“We still sell lots of Big Macs,” said Michael Delligatti. He added that he didn’t oppose tinkering with the original formula, such as by adding Sriracha sauce.

Mr. Delligatti didn’t receive royalties on Big Mac sales. “All I got was a plaque,” he once said.

Michael James Delligatti was born Aug. 2, 1918, in Uniontown, about 45 miles south of Pittsburgh. His father worked as a shoe cobbler and candy maker. The younger Mr. Delligatti attended school in Uniontown and in Fairmont, W.Va., then served in the U.S. Army in Europe during World War II. After the war, he hitchhiked to California and found work in drive-in restaurants there.

In 1953, he and a partner opened Delney’s Drive-In Restaurant in Pittsburgh. Two years later, Mr. DelliGatti met Ray Kroc, founder of McDonald’s, at a restaurant trade show in Chicago. He became a franchisee of McDonald’s in 1957, opening an outlet in Pittsburgh, the first in western Pennsylvania.

Mr. Delligatti is survived by his wife, Ellie, two sons, five grandchildren and eight great grandchildren. His two sons and two of his grandchildren are McDonald’s franchisees. In all, the family owns and operates 21 McDonald’s restaurants in western Pennsylvania.

In 2007, the family opened a McDonald’s Big Mac Museum Restaurant in North Huntingdon, Pa., near Pittsburgh.

Mr. Delligatti also innovated by coming up with an early version of the chain’s breakfast offerings—hotcakes and sausages initially aimed at steelworkers returning home from overnight shifts.

He wasn’t alone among franchisees in coming up with a hit product. McDonald’s said other franchisees invented the Egg McMuffin and the Filet-O-Fish.

Mr. Delligatti’s charitable contributions included backing for the Ronald McDonald House in Pittsburgh, which provides a refuge for families traveling to the area to get medical care for their children.