In Depth

The Big Mac lands in Vietnam: McDonald's makes its move

38 years after the Americans were kicked out of South Vietnam, McDonald's is ready for business

ALMOST 40 years after Saigon fell to the Communists and America's long war in Vietnam came to an ignominious end, the US imperialists are back in town. McDonald's is bringing the Big Mac to what is now called Ho Chi Minh City.

Vietnam will become the 38th Asian country in which the burger chain now operates. As the Financial Times reports, the move "highlights how the country is fast becoming one of the most attractive consumer markets in southeast Asia, even as its economy is among the worst performing".

McDonald's has appointed a well-known Vietnamese businessman, Henry Nguyen, to build the brand in Vietnam.

Having worked as a crew member at a local McDonald's when he was a student in the States, Nguyen told the Wall Street Journal: "I have dreamed of one day opening a McDonald's restaurant in my native country ever since my return to Vietnam more than a decade ago."

McDonald's says it had chose Nguyen after a "rigorous" selection process, though it probably helped that he is the son-in-law of Vietnam's prime minister, Nguyen Tan Dung.

In partnering with Henry Nguyen, McDonald's is employing the same "development licensee" model it now uses in 64 markets: a franchising scheme that means that more than 80 per cent of its worldwide outlets are operated by independent local men and women.

McDonald's is not the first American company to set up in post-war Vietnam, but - apart from Coca-Cola - it is perhaps the most iconic.

Starbucks opened it its first outlet in Ho Chi Minh City in February. Kentucky Fried Chicken and Pizza Hut were already in place - as were Coca-Cola and Pepsi, both of which served the huge US military presence during the war years but had to leave when the Americans were kicked out in 1975. They returned in the mid-1990s.

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