World's first vegetarian McDonald's to open at Indian holy sites
McDonald's will open outlets serving all-vegetarian menus for the first time at two of India's most-visited pilgrimage sites.
The news came on September 4, the same day that international sandwich chain Subway opened its first all-vegetarian outlet in the Indian state of Punjab.
McDonald's will open near the Golden Temple in Amritsar by mid-2013. Its second vegetarian outlet will be in the small town of Katra in the state of Jammu and Kashmir, at the base of the mountain shrine Vaishno Devi.
A holy site for Sikhs, the Golden Temple hosts thousands of visitors per day from around the world, while Katra welcomes around 8 million pilgrims a year en route to the Hindu shrine.
Both pilgrimage districts are entirely vegetarian. But beef-centric McDonald's won't have it easy despite bending to local dietary customs.
Its outlet in Amritsar will be 200 meters away from the Golden Temple, where free vegetarian meals are served as a part of the pilgrim's experience.
Some Hindus are opposed to the new outlets.
"It's an attempt not only to make money but also to deliberately humiliate Hindus," said S. Gurumurthy to The Daily Telegraph. "It is an organisation associated with cow slaughter."
Gurumurthy is co-convenor of the Hindu nationalist group Swadeshi Jagran Manch, a branch of Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), according to the Telegraph. He said in the report the Hindu nationalists are "definitely going to fight" the fast-food giant in its expansion plans.
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India's got beef
McDonald's has been in India since 1996, but only has 271 outlets, compared with more than 1,400 restaurants in China, where it entered the market six years earlier.
It has not been able to push its core product -- beef burgers -- in a country where cows are sacred for Hindus who account for 80 percent of the population.
Pork products are also not sold in McDonald's in India, a move that caters to Muslim requirements.
Instead, McDonald's in India sells a half-vegetarian menu, with chicken as the main source of meat.
The signature items to be served on McDonald's all-vegetarian menu include the McAloo Tikki burger made from spiced potatoes. The sandwich accounts for a quarter of sales in India.
As well, there will be the McVeggie, using a patty of carrots, peas and potatoes, and the McSpicy Paneer filled with Indian cheese.
The fast-food giant has plans to double its outlets in India in the next three years.
In addition to McDonald's and Subway, Domino’s Pizza is an international franchise with vegetarian outlets in Mumbai and Gujarat. India is the U.S.-based pizza chain's third-largest overseas market.
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