Can a burger chain succeed where cows are sacred?

McDonald’s is looking to tap into the growing appetites of consumers in rapidly developing China and India. The fast-food chain has 785 outlets in China and hopes to have 1,000 in place by the 2008 Beijing Olympics. In India, it serves up meals at 110 locations in Mumbai and New Delhi, with 25 more restaurants ...

604550_mccurry_05.jpg
604550_mccurry_05.jpg

McDonald's is looking to tap into the growing appetites of consumers in rapidly developing China and India. The fast-food chain has 785 outlets in China and hopes to have 1,000 in place by the 2008 Beijing Olympics. In India, it serves up meals at 110 locations in Mumbai and New Delhi, with 25 more restaurants scheduled to open during the next year.

McDonald’s is looking to tap into the growing appetites of consumers in rapidly developing China and India. The fast-food chain has 785 outlets in China and hopes to have 1,000 in place by the 2008 Beijing Olympics. In India, it serves up meals at 110 locations in Mumbai and New Delhi, with 25 more restaurants scheduled to open during the next year.

The challenge: customizing menus for local tastes. In India, beef is a no-no, so traditional burgers won’t fly. Instead, McDonald’s is counting on the success of vegetarian creations such as the McCurry Pan and others.

But locally-tailored menus bring another challenge: developing foods that can be distributed globally throughout the McDonald’s chain. One local offering that has gone global has been the McArabia (guess which market it was created for). The flatbread sandwich with spicy chicken and garlic mayonnaise now pleases palates in Malaysia and South Africa.

Perhaps with local menus, we shouldn’t fear the cultural homogenization that anti-globalization activists warn us about. On the other hand, China and India had better prepare for the obesity, heart disease and other health problems the West is already facing as a result of a culture of high-fat foods available at rock-bottom prices.

Preeti Aroon was copy chief at Foreign Policy from 2009 to 2016 and was an FP assistant editor from 2007 to 2009. Twitter: @pjaroonFP

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