The Whopper did it. After centuries cultivating a national cuisine that is renowned globally, China has succumbed. That fistful of burger will soon be available in China.
Burger King is coming to China – in a BIG way.
Together with the master franchisee that operates 500 Burger King restaurants in Turkey, the company announced a new joint venture intent on opening 1,000 restaurants in five to seven years. The partnership includes Cartesian Capital Group LLC and members of Turkey’s Kurdoglu family.
Today some 63 of the chain restaurants are open in China. In time that will expand 15 times. (I imagine there’s an easy correlation to be made to waist size, but I won’t make it. Some did that when McDonald’s arrived in Africa.)
The arrival of McDonald’s in China was a sensation at the time. The first restaurant was in Shenzhen – just across the border from Hong Kong. That opened in October 1990.
But the McDonald’s brand went big time when they opened in Beijing on 23 April 1992. At the time it opened, this was the world’s largest McDonald’s and had seating for 700. It was adjacent to Tiananmen Square in the centre of the capital. Queues extended for blocks. Couples held their wedding banquets there. It was a trendy, new place that people wanted to visit. (Today that restaurant and surrounding buildings have been demolished and redeveloped.)
The growth of Western food in China has been closely followed by a growth in Western diseases, from high cholesterol to obesity to diabetes.
In 1990 a large-scale study was conducted in China focused on diet and health. Called “The China Study 1” the monograph was published and led to a number of scientific articles.
Some analyses of data from China Study I, which was conducted among thousands of rural families in mainland China, linked that population’s low incidence of such Western health problems as cardiovascular disease, some cancers, obesity and diabetes to plant-based diets that were low in animal products. (Source: Cornell University via San Diego Earth Times.)
Hong Kong was a natural test bed of the effects of Western diet on Chinese people. This city boasts 7 of the 10 busiest McDonald’s restaurants in the world. When it first opened in 1975, most thought it wouldn’t survive more than a few months. Today McDonald’s is as much a part of the culture and diet of Hong Kong as any other food. (For an in-depth article on McDonald’s in Hong Kong, read this chapter by James Watson from “Golden Arches East: McDonald’s in East Asia.”
Now that Burger King has announced dramatic expansion plans in China, it will make it easier for locals and travelers alike to find their favourite Whopper. 弥天大谎，好吗？(Whopper, please?)