How McDonald’s Copes with International Tastes

Fast food master of the universe, McDonald’s began as one single drive-in restaurant in California. If you had have driven up to the menu board in 1954, you would have seen a long list of standard menu items including 15-cent hamburgers, cheeseburgers, pies, chips, milk, and milkshakes.

Later the two partners took on a newbie, a multi-mixer salesman named Ray Kroc. His job was to expand the business as a franchise. Ray did well, and McDonald’s had 700 stores by 1958.

McDonald’s is now a global brand with 32,000 stores in 120 countries.

How the Standard McDonald’s Menu Expanded

The menu began as a standardised offering but soon expanded organically from within the United States. Wisely, the McDonald’s team decided early on to seek ideas and input from their franchisees. They were the ones at the frontline, they understood their markets and local tastes better than headquarters. Soon enough Filet-O-Fish emerged, the Big Mac idea was from Pittsburgh, the Egg McMuffin in Santa Barbara. In Australia, the Mighty Angus burger is the local input.

Nowadays, McDonald’s is a well-oiled machine that pumps out standard products with local nuance. It’s a bit like a car manufacturer who uses a standard body platform for all vehicles and then adds the shell, colours, features and styling for each national market. The mechanics are all the same. Its all Quality, Service, Cleanliness and Value (QSCV); the little things are different – from hot chutneys, to creamy mayonnaise, spicy chilli sauce to halal and vegetarian.

Just as McDonald’s US stores began to expand the menu from region to region, so have international markets been allowed to adapt offerings within the premium / classic / everyday model to cater to local tastes.

McDonald’s and the Hindu market of India

As the 80 per cent Hindu population of India considers cows to be sacred, beef is not on the menu. Nor is pork, due to the 13 per cent Muslim population. Instead, vegetarian options that appeal to local tastes are catered for, such as the McVeggie, Veg Pizza McPuff, and the best-selling McAloo Tikki, which has been successfully exported to other markets including the Middle East.

 McDonald’s and Muslim markets

These markets require ‘halal’ certification and do not consume pork. The individual menu items are tailored to the differing local tastes in each area, however. In Indonesia, mayonnaise is replaced with ‘sambal’ – a spicy, hot sauce; in Pakistan it is a chutney; and Egypt has the classic menu but with other local variations such as McMuffin with chicken.

McDonald’s Japan

Not such a ubiquitous sight as elsewhere, McDonald’s in Japan serves a seafood-heavy menu. The best selling product is the ebi-burger (shrimp burger).

Ethnic Chinese markets

The ethnic Chinese market needs and tastes also vary according to the location.

It introduced the Corn Cup in China and then rolled it out to other markets.

In Malaysian where there is a large Chinese population, a Prosperity Burger was created, which consisted of  beef dipped in black pepper sauce and symbolised health and wealth. The success of the product saw it roll out to other ethnic Chinese markets in locations such as Singapore, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Korea, Indonesia and the Philippines.

China’s New Offerings

McDonald’s in China has just launched their new menu item, the Double Sausage Beef Burger, which contains two large German sausages, two beef patties and a sesame seed bun. It comes with mustard. There are no vegetables.

There is also the experimental ‘black and white’ burger that was released in September 2012

What do you think? Will either of these get imported to McDonald’s USA, Australia or any other markets?

Have you tried an item overseas you like?

Image courtesy of iFoodTV