Fast Food’s Far-Reaching Tentacles

In a bid to control emerging fast-food markets abroad, U.S. restaurant chains are making changes to their foreign menus in hopes of appealing to local tastes. As Reuters reported November 21, the increase of chain restaurants in China (which comes at a time when citizens are experiencing increased spending power) has led to such innovations as octopus-topped wasabi-and-salmon Pizza Hut pies and McDonald’s Quarter Pounders with cucumber and spicy sauce. Chains are also tweaking their prices in the hopes of inspiring Chinese folks to make fast-food consumption more of an everyday affair.

To hear Reuters tell it, the tactics are working—some customers even like the chains more than local restaurants:

‘Workers here are well-behaved, and they are always pleased to help you,’ said beauty products saleswoman Li Yan, 36, while on a recent visit to a Beijing McDonald’s. ‘Moreover, it’s much cleaner than some traditional Chinese restaurants.’

Yikes. Meanwhile, McDonald’s is putting the full-court press on cosmopolitan foodies in Australia and New Zealand, offering a range of “Deli Choice” sandwiches, including tandoori chicken and Thai chicken. (If you have broadband access, you’re in for a real treat with the crazy new floating-in-space theme of McDo’s Australia site.) And 7-Eleven—which is weirdly ubiquitous in Melbourne—is obviously marketing its new line of to-go items to food-obsessed types.

One new addition to Australia’s fast-food scene is causing a bit of a stir, though: Mickey D’s is now offering halal meats at two of its Melbourne shops. Sales are reportedly booming at those stores, but some non-Muslim customers were furious to find out that their burgers came from animals slaughtered facing Mecca and blessed in the name of Allah. As one woman told the Australian newspaper the Herald Sun, “Just as a Muslim would not want to eat anything that isn’t halal … I should have my rights to eat normal, ordinary food that hasn’t been blessed.”

At least she still has the right to eat normal, ordinary food that’s full of trans fats.

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