Burger King Ringo Latest Difference in Fast Food Chain Menus Outside U.S.


A news article mentioning “Ringo” and “Apple” sounds like it might be on the Beatles or Apple’s iTunes. Actually, it is about a new Burger King Ringo sandwich with apples in Japan, the latest of many differences in fast food chain menus outside and inside the U.S.

The burger wars between Burger King and McDonalds have escalated greatly outside the U.S., where half their locations are. Both companies strive to balance their image and consistency requirements with local taste. This has led them and other worldwide chains like KFC, Subway, Dominos and Taco Bell to create different menu items in other countries. For example, most international chains with locations in Quebec serve poutine, French fries covered with gravy and cheese curds, a regional side dish. While American tourists traveling in other countries would hopefully choose restaurants abroad that they do not frequent at home, it can be fun and interesting to explore the different menu options they offer.

Some chains try to preserve their branding stay through naming conventions. For example, Burger King calls many types of sandwiches “Whoppers” in other countries. McDonald’s adds a “Mc” in front of dishes as part of their strategy, such as the Bubur Ayam McD in Malaysia (chicken porridge) and McMolettes in Mexico (refried beans, cheese and pico de gallo on an English Muffin). Not every regional variation does well. For example, in Israel, McDonalds recently pulled its McFalafel, which did not catch on.

Burger King’s latest in Japan, the Ringo, shows the difference in tastes U.S. fast food chains need to address by altering their standard fare outside America.  Ringo in Japanese means apple. The new sandwich uses grilled apple slices instead of tomatoes and a cinnamon-flavored mayonnaise. In Germany, McDonalds has a Big Rösti burger option which features bacon, cheese and a rösti (crispy potato pancake). The Whopper Criollo is popular in Argentina, where chimichurri sauce (a blend of olive oil, chiles and herbs) is used in place of mayonnaise and American cheese. The Nacho Whopper (topped with nacho chips, jalapenos and Mexican sauce) is sold in the Netherlands.

Regional bread or bun tastes are taken into account. Burgers are served on pita bread in Greece, rice cakes in Singapore, and sticky rice patties in the Philippines.

People have religious dietary restrictions want alternatives to burgers in their countries. In India, McDonalds sells the McAloo Tikki hasa (a potato and chickpea patty) and the McCurry Pan, which has curried vegetables in a bread box. In Muslim countries, both burger chains use 100 percent Halal beef. McDonald’s Israel offers 40 Kosher and 120 non-Kosher restaurants in Israel. The Kosher ones do not serve any dairy products and are closed on Jewish holidays. There is a Kosher one in Argentina, too.  Burger King did not do as well in Israel and pulled out three years ago, but the chain is planning to try again.

Overseas, one big difference from fast food locations in the U.S. is the alcohol on menus. For example, McDonald’s serves beer in Germany, France, Spain, Austria, Italy and other places. It also offers wine where culturally appropriate like France and Argentina, where they use local Malbec.

Burger King has tried a different tack by creating Whopper Bars that serve beer and more upscale burgers. They have even poured some brew in the U.S. There are Whopper Bars in Orlando, FL, Las Vegas, Munich, Singapore and Venezuela.

McDonald’s also appealed to European tastes with its rapid rollout of almost 1,000 McCafés across the continent. In Germany alone, there are more than 500 McCafés, making McDonald’s the country’s leading coffee chain. The McCafés are set up as a coffee-bars-within-a-store. They offer cappuccino and espresso as well as local pastries such as cornettos in Italy, flan in Spain and tortes in Germany and Austria.

Opening your doors and posting an iconic American logo is not enough for success. McDonald’s has done well tailoring its menus to local tastes. Burger King has been challenged by markets that require alternatives to a Whopper (like India which they are now entering well after the other chains) and failures in some, like Israel. They are starting to think regionally versus globally, as evidenced by the latest Japanese sandwich, the Burger King Ringo, but the fast food chain needs to add more difference in menus outside the U.S. to stay even in the burger wars.

By Dyanne Weiss

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