As reported by the Financial Times this morning, McDonald’s is due to open its first vegetarian restaurants in the Indian villages of Amristar and Katra, Sikh and Hindu pilgrimage sites respectively:
“A vegetarian store makes absolute sense in the places which are famous as pilgrimage sites,” said Rajesh Kumar Maini, a spokesman for McDonald’s India.
The article goes on to state that the branches will sell existing vegetarian options, such as the McSpicy Paneer, and hope to expand the range.
McDonald’s, for all its rampant Americanisation of the world, has always been good at giving people what they want. For instance, in Portugal, you can get beer with your meal, while in Indonesia the chicken and rice combo has proved more popular. (Here’s a list of “weird” menu items from around the world). The truth is, McDonald’s responds to market demands because it’s good for business, and is, in this sense, one of the few truly democratic institutions we have (I suppose advertising sways things, but still, we’re not complete idiots). The Amristar and Katra branches allude to the fact that if people really cared about animal rights, McDonald’s would go vegetarian. And while you could argue that the conglomerate epitomises and perpetuates consumerism, I cannot think of a good less snobby; unlike Starbucks, it is not built around a culture of conspicuous consumption, and is one of the few things that is affordable for most (see Andy Warhol on Coca-cola).
That said, McDonald’s does make every high street and holy land a bit less interesting and a bit more like every other place you’ve been.