Most Americans are familiar with common fast food chains such as McDonalds, Taco Bell, and Subway. However, if they were to see what these chains offer on their menus in India, they may be surprised to see some unfamiliar new dishes and many iconic dishes—such as the Big Mac or Beef Burrito Supreme—missing completely!
If fast food companies want to appeal to consumers of other nations, they need to ensure their menu offerings are American enough to be a novelty worth paying for, yet, familiar enough that menu items are not considered unappetizing or—even worse—offensive. It’s a balance that many American fast food chains have had to test, tweak, and strike when moving into countries like India.
Taco Bello, taking a cue from Indian street fare, offers such items on its Indian menu such as the kathitto, considered an Indian burrito. Instead of a tortilla, though, you will find a paratha encasing either vegetables or grilled chicken. It is, as described on Taco Bell’s website, “Mexican inside, Indian outside!
How Indian can American fast food companies get without having to do a complete menu overhaul? Quite a bit it would appear. India poses an interesting challenge for many companies due to the dietary restrictions of the majority of the population: Hindus do not consume beef and Muslims do not eat pork. So how do companies deal with these restrictions?
Many companies have found creative ways around these obstacles, resulting in a variety of unique, culturally sensitive, and not to mention delicious, menu items. Food items such as aloo, paneer, peas, chickpeas, corn, chutneys, and masalas all go a long way in making American fast food more palatable to Indian taste buds.
With the lack of demand for red meat, many fast food companies promote their white meat options, highlighting their extensive fish and chicken options.
KFC’s fried chicken is one example of a fast food item enjoyed in both countries. However, their menu is a bit more inclusive in India, offering unique vegetarian options such as rice “bowlz” which comes with rice and veg strips and the very popular paneer zinger which is paneer patty served on a corn bun.
KFC India offers a bevy of chicken burgers as well. However, whereas as the American KFC resigns potatoes more as a side item in the form of mashed potatoes or potato wedges, its Indian counterpart has potato items as both sides and mains. KFC offers dishes like the Cheesy Crunch Burger and Cheesy Crunch Wrap, which are a sandwich and wrap respectively, with hash browns.
There is also the OMG Burger which sandwiches a potato patty and omelet between a bun and the very popular Potato Krisper which, you guessed it, has a crisp potato patty as the star. If that’s not enough aloo for you, though, you can also get a side of fries.
And, perhaps my favorite thing about their Indian menu, is their inclusion of chicken biriyani.
India’s edition of the sandwich shop Subway follows suit in using an aloo patty as filling, and has other interesting vegetarian offerings as well, such as chatpata chana patty, paneer tikka, and vegetable shammi sandwiches. There are also numerous chicken fillings in tandoori, tikka, and seekh form. There is, however, absolutely no beef or pork items on the menu.
It would appear, and rightfully so, that many American fast food companies have made a name for themselves by offering aloo and paneer versions of their American counterparts.
American pizza companies have taken India by storm as well, and it’s no surprise once you see the list of pizzas available!
Domino’s Pizza offers some favorites such as “peppy paneer” along with numerous chicken toppings for non-veg pizza options. Pizza Hut seems to be successfully riding out the paneer gravy train with its paneer pizza game on point with toppings such as paneer makhani, tandoori paneer, and chana paneer pizza.
However, if you think paneer is Pizza Hut’s only desi-fied offering, you would be sadly mistaken. Pizza Hut is also known for offering truly delicious pizza-chicken combinations with toppings such as chicken keema, chicken kofta, chili chicken, and kadhai chicken! Sadly, you will not find any of these toppings in American Pizza Huts.
Perhaps the king of American fast food in India, however, is McDonald’s, with its golden arches currently reaching well beyond 213 locations in India—and they are looking to add 250 more restaurants by 2020! McDonald’s was one of the first fast food companies to take up shop in India in 1996, and while many people thought the fast food was unlikely to stick in India, the company proved naysayers wrong.
McDonald’s has made some of the most drastic differences to their menu, changing 70 percent of the standard American food items to better appeal to majority Indians. The famous Big Mac has been replaced with the Maharaja Mac, available as chicken or veg. Even more in demand is the vegetarian McAloo Tikki, which cleverly pulls on India’s heartstrings for aloo tikki and morphing it into a “Mc” sandwich.
It appears that American fast food companies in India will enjoy more success now than ever in years past. Consumer demands for more international foods are only on the rise with more Indians joining the workforce and increasing their exposure to non-traditional foods through media and travel.
Will this exposure lead to consumers changing their food preferences or will companies have to continue changing their American menus to suit Indian palettes? Only time will tell!
This post was originally published on our partner site India.com. It is republished here with additions to the original.