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Full-length view of three fast food restaurant signs (Hardees, Burger King, and Popeyes) along a street in Amman, Jordan.In the Hindu religion, the predominant belief system in India, cows are sacred, and eating beef is strictly forbidden. This foundational belief may make it seem as if hamburger joints would never be able to gain a foothold in India. But the massive growth and potential of the nation’s consumer market has proved irresistible, leading the restaurants simply to get a little more creative in their offerings.

Wendy’s first Indian store features mutton and veggie burgers, and the buns are sprinkled with local flavors such as tumeric, coriander, and chilies. But the menu is not the only thing that sets the Indian Wendy’s apart. Servers bring meals to customers at their tables, on china plates, and the store environment is more like a casual restaurant than a traditional fast-food outpost. The burger chain has only one store in India so far, but it plans to go “location by location,” opening new stores slowly and carefully to ensure their success. Ultimately, the Indian franchise hopes that Wendy’s India will be as big as Wendy’s USA.

The road to success will not be smooth though. Wendy’s is a prominent but by no means the only chain to seek access to Indian consumers. McDonald’s entered relatively early and is currently the market leader; Burger King arrived last year. Other recent entries from Carl’s Jr., Fatburger, and Johnny Rockets have prompted predictions of a burger war. Not to be left out, even Dunkin’ Donuts stores in India serve some type of burger, because doughnuts have not proved popular enough.

The flavors and ingredients contained in the versions of burgers offered by the different chains are widely varied. Some rely on chicken offerings, with smoky chipotle flavoring or barbeque bacon additions. Others integrate other types of meat, but some are purely vegetarian. Thus the burger wars feature some notable differentiation across the combatants. Whether any or all of them will emerge victorious remains to be seen though.

Discussion Question:

What sociocultural factors do fast-food restaurants need to consider whey they plan an expansion into India?

Source: Angela Doland, “How Wendy’s Is Building a Beefless Burger Brand for India,” Advertising Age, May 29, 2015

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