Not Lovin' It
Baker, Katie, Newsweek
Byline: Katie Baker
Will India buy a meatless Big Mac?
McDonald's is practically synonymous with burgers--the bigger and beefier, the better. So fans expressed a degree of shock last week when the fast-food juggernaut announced plans to open two all-vegetarian restaurants next year. The meatless eateries will debut in India, where the company already eschews beef and pork products in deference to Hindu and Muslim populations, and where it offers an array of veggie-friendly options: the McAloo Tikki "burger" (a spicy potato patty), and the McSpicy Paneer (deep-fried cheese).
India is a hot market these days for American brands looking to cash in on the country's burgeoning middle class. According to one estimate, the fast-food industry there is expected to almost triple by 2014, to $2.6 billion. Competitors such as Yum! Brands (which owns KFC, Taco Bell, and Pizza Hut) and Dunkin' Donuts are a growing presence, and Starbucks and Krispy Kreme both plan to launch stores before the end of the year.
Though McDonald's Indian outlets now account for less than 1 percent of its stores worldwide, the company desperately needs the business. Its stock has slumped almost 10 percent this year, and in July it reported declining profits in India and announced it would slash prices. The new all-veggie branches--in the Sikh holy city of Amritsar and the Kashmiri town of Katra, near the shrine of Vaishno Devi--take aim at the millions of religious pilgrims who abstain from meat each year as part of their journey to the holy sites. …