Big Mac's local flavor - May. 2, 2008
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7/4/2008 9:23 PM
May 2, 2008: 8:48 AM EDT
Big Mac's local flavor
Once vilified for pushing America on
the world, McDonald's lets countries
invent their own buns, bags, and
business practices. Now some ideas
are making their way back home.
(Fortune Magazine) -- The next time you're in Brazil, say, or
Italy or Portugal, and feeling like a taste of Americana, stop
off at a local McDonald's restaurant and order a Big Tasty burger. As the name suggests, it's a giant sandwich
consisting of a 5.5-ounce beef patty slathered in smoky barbecue sauce. Once you include the square-chopped
lettuce, tomatoes, and three slices of cheese, it all adds up to a whopping 840 calories.
Just don't try looking for the Big Tasty in the United States, McDonald's home territory. It's not on sale there. In
fact, there's precious little about the burger that's American at all, other than the fact that it's sold by McDonald's.
It was dreamed up in a test kitchen in Germany and then tweaked, trialed, and launched in Sweden in August
2003. It proved so successful there - "It's one of our biggest sellers ever," says Susanne Rydjer, a Swedish
McDonald's marketing executive - that restaurants in other parts of Europe quickly picked it up. Latin America
and Australia followed suit. (It is no relation to the American Big N' Tasty, which is smaller and less successful.)
On its path to becoming a hit, the Big Tasty has become something much larger than a giant burger: It is a prime
example of how, in this era of global business, the tail can end up wagging the dog. McDonald's worldwide
operations are now far bigger than its U.S. domestic business, and they are growing substantially faster. And as
the world has become the principal revenue engine for the company, it has turned this iconic American brand
upside down, transforming the way it does business.
These days new ideas can - and frequently do- come from anywhere. The Big Tasty didn't make it to the United
States (more about that later), but plenty of other things that originated thousands of miles away from Oak Brook,
Ill., where the company is based, have either already done so or are about to.
Fortune has learned that later this year McDonald's (
) will roll out new wrappers, boxes, and
bags in its U.S. restaurants that will tout the quality of its products. The company's head of European operations