Yes, it’s worth visiting McDonald’s while abroad

McDonald's in Beijing, China Photo Credit: Marko Kudjerski
McDonald’s in Beijing, China
Photo Credit: Marko Kudjerski
Chicken Maharaja Mac from India Photo Credit: Yusuke Kawasaki
Chicken Maharaja Mac from India
Photo Credit: Yusuke Kawasaki

We all know the stereotype of the unworldly North American traveller – someone who visits Paris just to dine at the McDonald’s opposite the Eiffel Tower.  

While I would never pass on a local specialty to eat a Big Mac, I have come to appreciate and admire McDonald’s extensive efforts to adapt their business model to new markets. 

Twisty Pasta Breakfast Source: McDonald's Hong Kong
Twisty Pasta Breakfast
Source: McDonald’s Hong Kong

When you enter an international franchise of the world’s largest hamburger chain, it feels similar to what you’d expect back home, until you look at the menu. This is because McDonald’s takes into account local dietary preferences, cultural and religious norms when developing the menu for any given international market.

The most prominent example of this menu customization is in India where the majority of the population is Hindu; McDonald’s serves a menu completely free of beef and pork. In Israel, McDonald’s operates 50 Kosher locations (sorry, no cheese on your Big Mac) and cooks over charcoal rather than the standard griddle used elsewhere in the world. 

Big America burger in Israel - no cheese!
Big America burger in Israel – no cheese!

I was at a McDonald’s in Hong Kong a few months ago at breakfast time and noticed that the locals were not ordering Egg McMuffins or the Filet-O-Fish sandwich (offered there as a breakfast item). Instead, the most popular breakfast item was one unique to Hong Kong and Macau: a twisty pasta dish with vegetables, meat and egg.

Elsewhere in China, the flagship product offered around the time of my visit was the Modern China Burger, consisting of two pork patties and bacon on a grey steam bun. This local twist on the hamburger received significant international media attention due to its unusual colour and appearance.

McChoco Potatoes from Japan Source: McDonald's Handout Photo
McChoco Potatoes from Japan
Source: McDonald’s Handout Photo

A short visit to an international McDonald’s location provides a unique glimpse into the company’s extensive efforts to adapt their business model to diverse markets. You might even find an interesting menu item that you can’t get at home. Personally, I’m holding out for the shrimp burger, currently available only in Japan and Korea. 

Is there an international McDonald’s menu item that you’d like to try? What about the McChoco Potatoes recently released in Japan?