I recently traveled to Israel for the first time. During my trip, I acquainted myself well with the local cuisine: Lamb, shawarma, falafel, fish. I even tried hummus, though I never liked it back in the States (I didn’t like it in Israel, either). Eventually, as is my wont, I was craving fast food, specifically pizza. At the airport in Tel Aviv waiting to board my flight, I saw a welcome sight: Pizza Hut.
I ran — literally ran — over there, with thoughts of a gooey cheese pan pizza with olives and mushrooms dancing around in my head. But when I looked at the menu, I was surprised that in addition to pizza, Israeli Pizza Huts serve quiche.
Curious, I asked the woman behind the counter about the quiche. I explained that I was from Los Angeles and I wanted to know how popular quiche was here, particularly in comparison with pizza. “Oh, it’s no contest,” she replied. “Quiche is our most popular item.”
Quiche is just one of several examples of major fast food chains offering menu items specific to the country they’re in (All Pizza Hut items in Israel are also kosher). The reasoning is simple: Different countries have different local tastes, so it’s important for these multi-national companies to cater to the regions they’re in. That’s why at KFC in Australia, you’ll see chicken pot pie, or if you go to a Burger King in Canada, you can order beef poutine, made with fries, cheese curds, and gravy.
More examples of localized fare at major fast food chains:
The Paneer Zinger, a crunchy, double-layered paneer cheese patty filled with a spicy, creamy sauce and topped with lettuce on a sesame bun, available at KFCs in largely vegetarian India.
Also in Japan, the Kuro (or black) Burger — featuring black cheese made from bamboo charcoal and black squid ink sauce on a charred black bun — is available at Burger King.
In Mexico, McDonald’s offers a localized version of its Egg McMuffin called McMolletes. It’s served open-faced and topped with refried beans, cheese, and pico de gallo.
What localized fast food have you spotted around the world? Tell us in the comments!
Nevin Barich is the Food & Beverage analyst for Industry Intelligence, a Los Angeles-based market intelligence firm. It's the perfect job for him: He loves junk food, he often works besides a glass of Diet Dr. Pepper, and anytime one of the health nuts in his office gives him grief for eating a Big Mac, he gets to smile and say: "Hey, this is my job." Email him at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter.