McDonald's opens vegetarian restaurants

Sep 4, 2012

Burger giant plans to open meat-free restaurants in India to cater for the religious

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MCDONALD'S is opening two vegetarian-only restaurants in India as it seeks to expand in a large and fast-growing market where cows are regarded as sacred.

The brand has failed to take off in the subcontinent, where vegetarianism is widespread and eating a Big Mac - McDonald's signature dish - is frowned upon.

There are currently just 271 restaurants in India - in comparison to 1,200 in the UK - and the company hopes the move will mean expanding to double that in the next three years.

The vegetarian outlets are due to open next year at two popular sites for pilgrimage: the city of Amritsar, home to Sikhism's Golden Temple, and the small town of Katra, which is home to the Hindu shrine of Vaishno Devi.

Rajesh Kumar Maini, a spokesman for McDonald's India, told the Financial Times: "A vegetarian store makes absolute sense in the places which are famous as pilgrimage sites."

McDonald's hopes the new restaurants will appeal to pilgrims on limited budgets, such as young people and families.

The chain first opened in India in 1996, selling lamb burgers instead of beef – a culinary innovation quickly abandoned because they were "too rubbery". The only meat burgers now on offer are made from chicken, but at least half of the McDonald's India menu is vegetarian.

Popular items include the McAloo Tikki (a patty of spicy mashed potatoes), which accounts for 25 per cent of sales in India, and the McSpicy Paneer (a patty of traditional Indian cheese). Mr Maini added that many new dishes would be added to the vegetarian stores' menus.

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