The U.S. chain known primarily for its hamburgers and fries is shifting gears to open its first veggie-friendly restaurant.
McDonald’s, the globalized burger franchise, has decided to cater to some of its newest patrons in India by offering only vegetarian fare in two holy cities — Amritsar, a Sikh holy site, and the tiny town of Katra, which is the closest city to the Hindu shrine of Vaishno Devi.
The chain expects to open the two new veggie restaurants in the next year. And if the stores draw in as many new customers as the company hopes, more veggie-friendly stores are likely to spring up around the subcontinent.
While McDonald’s isn’t new to India (the first store in the country opened in 1996), this is the first major concession in menu changes the chain has made for its foreign patrons. While McDonald’s has offered additional items or revised its menu items to reflect the tastes of its restaurant-goers in its many locations, this is the first time the franchise has taken steps to alter its entire menu concept to suit the tastes of its customers.
McDonald’s already offers a number of Indian-inspired dishes in the country, including the McAloo Tikka (a deep-fried potato patty), the McSpicy Paneer (a cheese patty), and the McVeggie (a veggie burger made of potatoes, peas and carrots). However, these items won’t be enough to fill out the menus of its new all-veggie restaurants, so the franchise is working on a number of new products for the restaurant openings.
Many followers of the Hindu faith in India believe cows are holy animals and therefore, don’t eat any beef or are complete vegetarians. The move to vegetarian fare could help the worldwide chain gain more of a following amongst its Indian customers. Although McDonald’s has had a presence on the subcontinent for more than a decade, it has only expanded to 271 stores around the country of more than 1 billion people.
While McDonald’s move to vegetarian food signifies a major change for the company, the move isn’t unique to the restaurant world. Competitor Subway opened its first all-vegetarian version of its restaurant on Tuesday in the Punjab province, and Domino’s Pizza has several veggie-friendly stores around Mumbai and Gujarat.