McDonald’s India franchisee plans 30 more stores

By Reuters
Posted Feb. 21 at 7:29 a.m.

McDonald’s Corp.’s Indian franchisee plans to set up 30 new restaurants in the southern and western parts of the country this year, as part of the restaurant chain’s expansion plans in Asia’s third-largest economy.

Speaking to Reuters in an interview, Hardcastle Restaurants Private Ltd Vice Chairman Amit Jatia said the franchisee would invest $111 million in India over the next three to four years.

Global retail and restaurant chains have been looking to aggressively expand in India, where more than 60 percent of the population, or 700 million people, are under the age of 30 and make a prime target for fast-food chains.

McDonald’s, like other fast-food chains, has adapted its menu to suit palates and dietary habits in a country where a significant portion of the population is vegetarian.

On an entirely beef-free menu, the Indian version of the Big Mac, called the “Maharaja Mac,” uses chicken instead.

The chain also offers wraps stuffed with paneer — the Indian version of cottage cheese, a “McVeggie” burger and a “McAloo Tikki” burger, which uses potato patties.

McDonald’s, which competes with other U.S. rivals such as Yum Brands and Dominos Pizza in India, opened 33 new restaurants in the country in 2010.

Hardcastle will have 250 McDonald’s restaurants in three to four years in the two regions, up from 106 now, Jatia said, as it looks to tap growth in a country where the fast food industry is growing at about three times the rate of the overall economy.

Hardcastle is now a licensee of McDonald’s in India, after the world’s biggest restaurant chain sold a 50 percent stake in the joint venture to its local partner last year, Jatia said.

“Eighty percent of our restaurants globally are franchise and that’s typically the way McDonald’s likes to move forward and we felt that India is at a stage where this structure would work the best in the south and west to take advantage of the growth in the country,” Jatia said.

In November, Yum Brands, parent of the KFC, Pizza Hut and Taco Bell chains, said it expected to grow revenue in India by 35 to 40 percent in 2011 as it expanded into smaller cities.

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