Does the concept for a fast food chain need to come from the United States to be successful? And in that case, why?

Ovo is a place where Esperanto food is served in an Esperanto way. Ovo uses Esperanto as its corporate language, and a principle of transparency in production and pricing. At Ovo one is never in doubt about what is in the food, and what one is paying for.


The 1900s: the century of utopias

Esperanto was launched 1887 by the Polish oculist Ludwig Zamenhof. It was quite typical of its time in a Europe looking for new values after Christianity was losing its grip of the citizens' imaginary powers. Such tendencies were for instance to be found within the labour movement, philosophy, sports, art, various spiritual circles, psychology, and sociology. Optimism about the future at the doorstep of the 20th century led to a century of radical utopian experiments.

Utopias lack of dynamics

It is of course always possible to argue that a utopia has never been fully implemented, which would be a way of defending its shortcomings. But it is actually a fully implemented utopia that is the greatest danger of all. As Descartes would put it, not even the notion of imperfection can exist in that which is perfect. It will lack an external position from which it can study itself. A completely implemented utopia can thus not contain any auto reformative mechanisms.

One false conscience will always be substituted by another

The collapse of the East German socialist party can be seen as an indirect result of its own image production. The stronger the superiority of the East German system was insisted upon, the harder it was for its regime to set out on a path of reform. The East Germans were never so naïve to think that western consumerism would salvage them. But the thought that something existed outside the lie of their own system made it unavoidable to imagine that this other model could be more true. The tragedy of films like Goodbye Lenin and Truman Show is not that the protagonist lives in a world of deceptive appearances, but the lack of assurance that the alternative should be truer, or even better. The liberating moment of truth can only be localised to the very implosion of the horizon of the image.

What happened to universal idealism?

The more and more pertinent post-modern condition of the last 35-40 years has sown doubt about the possibility of discourse, and has led to a radical pragmatism within economics and politics. Compared to a hundred years ago, the greatest tendency towards universalism today is in the economic field. The idealistic universal movements that were born at the doorstep of modernity has either, like sport and social democracy, adapted themselves to new economic realities. Or they live a quiet life amongst a lesser number of enthusiasts. Esperanto is an example of the latter. There might possibly exist fewer speakers of Esperanto than McDonalds fast food establishments!

American power; the melting pot product; the protestant ethic of capitalism

The spread of American culture all over the world is of course linked to the power the United States gained after the collapse of Nazism in 1945 and communism in 1989. But not only therefore. The unique position of USA as a melting pot of cultures has created an industry, which through its products very efficiently can communicate to people of different ethnic backgrounds. There is also a third factor: the entrepreneurial spirit of the early Anglo Saxon protestant colonisers, which transcended cultural backgrounds and became the most important notion in the creation of an American collective identity.


The forms of the meal

Not only production but also consumption is rationalized at the fast food establishment. It offers its customers instant satisfaction. The gourmet restaurant, on the other hand, structures the meal according to a dramaturgy in which the gestures of the service, the succession of dishes and the accompanying wines, resemble a long and complex procedure of seduction; that there sometimes is almost nothing on the plate, is not a way of fooling the customer, but has to be seen in the wider context of the meal — a social ritual in which the stuffing of the stomach only constitutes one element. Looked at from this aspect, consuming fast food is a way to avoid pleasure by getting it all over and done with as quickly as possible.

The fast food experience is thus thoroughly protestant in its focus on efficiency and instrumentality. In an American context it is also important to stress the notion of fast food democracy. When Americans talk about giving the whole world democracy and free trade, they actually believe that the two cannot be separated. The self-indulgent eating habits of European Royalty is taken for granted by everyone (like Queen Elizabeth getting rainwater from the Scottish Highlands to make her tea) while in the United States not even the president will get a better Coke than anyone else, and it is taken for granted that is what he want.

McDonalds introduces global pay off

In 2004 McDonalds for the first started to use the same pay off in all its markets. A pay off is the kind of slogan that increasingly is used by companies together with their logo and name.

McDonalds' new global pay off is 'I'm lovin' it!' Initially it sounds rather bad. One comes to think of 'Coke is it!'', With which, in comparison, McDonalds' new global pay off does not seem able to measure itself

In 'Coke is it!' there is absolutely no doubt about what 'Coke' is. And we accept the metaphysical quality of 'it', just because 'Coke' is so well known to us. But who is the 'I' and, what is the 'it' in the McDonalds slogan? Probably, it is the receiver of the advertisement who is supposed to identify with 'I'. How about the 'it'? Is it the company itself? Is it its selection of products? Is it the act of eating them?

Flexibility as global strategy

Translated into Christian theological terms, 'it' appears to be like a holy ghost that lacks the authority of the father and the concrete corporeality of the son. This it can take on different shapes and penetrate different circumstances. It is a joker and trickster in the nature of McDonalds absurd Ronald McDonald figure. Thus, seen as a part of a long-term global strategy, 'I'm lovin' it!' is still probably a good idea. From the aspect of maximizing the expansion of the brand, the lack of relation between the it and any specific product is an obvious advantage.


ovo as lucid optimism

Ovo is an Esperanto fast food site. It is an encounter between the idealistic universalism of Esperanto and today's pragmatic economic enterprises striving for universal presence. Ovo is a part of La Loko's long term work in creating a hypothetical mimetic Esperanto universe — the idea of another place, were another order could be possible. Ovo investigates the anatomy and physiognomy of the fast food site through concrete mimetic work.

Open source strategy: transparency

Ovo will of course use Esperanto as its corporate language. The two key aspects of Esperanto is that it is truly international in the sense that it only belongs to its speakers, and that it is easy to learn since its grammar, phonetics, and word formation system are regular and transparent. As one studies Esperanto, one will get a grasp of how Esperanto actually works. Ovo uses this transparency principle in its products and operation.

Olsson & Salomon 2005