How Fast Food Chains are successfully Adapting their Menus to Local Tastes

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From Pizza Hut Thailand’s ‘Tom Yum Kung Pizza’ to McDonald’s ‘McKroket’ in the Netherlands, fast food chains are adapting to local tastes and expanding their share of the market in a big way.

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The Glocalisation of Taste Buds
“A brand will not lose its identity while adapting to the local environment”, remarked a retail analyst in one of India’s leading brokerage firms and those words of wisdom are proving remarkably truthful the world over.
There’s long existed the need on the part of fast food chains to adapt, or perhaps more accurately ‘tweak’, their menus to local tastes as part of a strategy to woo locals toward foods as characteristically Western as hamburgers, French fries and pizza.
Whilst many people in the developing world have long had a taste for Western style fast food, there are many upon whom it’s never made much of an impression and they’re the people fast food chains are trying to woo with their menus.
This has proven a success in many developing world countries though there are some notable exceptions; take McDonald’s efforts in China for example.
After introducing the rice burgers that proved remarkably successful in other Asian countries, McDonalds found that it wasn’t localised cuisine that Chinese diners wanted but rather its classic burgers, like the iconic Big Mac and their forever expanding range of cheeseburgers.
However, they’ve made a few changes here and there, most notably swapping pickles for cucumbers and replacing ketchup with a spicier sauce on its localised version of the Quarter Pounder, known locally as the ‘Big N’ Beefy’, which ties in with its local slogan, ‘Feel the Beef’.
Japan – Novelty À Gogo!
If you weren’t aware that the Japanese have long loved novelties, this should become immediately apparent upon taking a look at the menus at McDonald’s Japanese restaurants.
The Teriyaki McBurger which is accompanied with a bag of Seaweed Shaker fries is a notable example of how the world’s most famous fast food chain has tweaked its cuisine to cater for local taste buds, as is the Ebi Filet-O, a shrimp burger for which McDonalds enlisted the assistance of ‘Ebi-chan’ – Japanese model Yuri Ebihara – to help popularise.
India – The Need for More Spices and Vegetarian Cuisine
A particularly notable example of how fast food chains have had to adapt their menus to local tastes is exemplified by the leading fast food chains’ expansion into India in the late 1990’s.
Expecting huge demand from locals, most found the locals rather unimpressed with their Western offerings with most turning their noses up at hamburgers and pizza in favour of traditional local foods.
However, years of experimentation with localised flavours finally paid off and most international fast food chains are doing a healthy trade in India. According to the chief executive of Jubilant FoodWorks which franchises Domino’s Pizza, “The consumers evolved, the tastes evolved; the menus and formats followed.”
What’s more, as fast food chains have traditionally proffered meat-heavy menus they’ve had to make some notable changes when expanding into India.
Roughly 50 percent of Indian fast food menus are vegetarian and as the majority of the population are Hindu, there’s naturally no beef to be seen on any Indian menu.
McDonald’s opened a chain of ‘100 percent vegetarian restaurants’ in religious cities like Amritsar and every fast food chain operating in India has a ‘paneer’ burger – paneer is an Indian cheese – and at least one burger that’s 100 percent free of any animal products to cater for religious conservatives.
The Middle East – A Rapidly Expanding Market
Despite the opinions of many people throughout the Middle East regarding the US and the West, fast food chains have done a roaring trade throughout the Arab world and for some time now it’s been possible to order pizza delivery in Dubai or wander into a southern fried chicken restaurant in Abu Dhabi.
Whilst Western-style fast food has long been popular in the Middle East, there have also been many menu changes including local-style flatbreads on pizza chains’ menus and even traditional salads like tabouleh.
As disposable incomes rise throughout the developing world fast food chains will continue to adapt their menus to local tastes – bring on the glocalisation of taste buds!

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