The ‘McDonald’s’ Test

A BIG shout out to Katie from ‘The Frugal Foodies’ today because it was in reading this article – ‘Macca’s versus Mickey D’s – The Ultimate Cross-Continental McDonald’s Breakfast Sandwich Showdown’ which reminded me I had been planning for YEARS to write on this very subject. No matter your destination, it’s becoming harder and harder to find a place to go which doesn’t have McDonald’s. What does that mean?

McDonald’s in Moscow.

Well firstly, although I freely acknowledge I indulge in eating from the ‘Golden Arches’ at home and when travelling, it’s still a little sad that you can’t get away from this chain which sure knows how to move into to a market and take hold. From India to Thailand, Brazil to Canada, Australia, China, there are few countries these days which do not have a McDonald’s inside their borders. BUT – here are some I have noticed over the years.

Kazakhstan – that was in 2011 and this may have changed now, and basically all of Central Asia. Certainly not in Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan and Turkmenistan. Not in Mongolia. In 2011 not in Georgia. Would be surprised if that is still so today. Did not see ANY in West Africa. In Egypt, yes. In most countries in west and east Europe. It IS in Iceland. Say what you will, their business model, despite some issues, has been very successful.

From Wikipedia, user: Szylak – where you can find McDonald’s

But when I say the ‘McDonald’s Test’, what exactly am I talking about? Well, two things. How does it compare taste-wise is the obvious test, but what we can really ascertain from that is really more on McDonald’s in individual countries. It’s interesting to see the differences too in the menu and what’s available. Some examples for you –

Israel. Not particularly different, but I have to say it was one of the worst McDonald’s I have ever had. I know people often point out that McDonald’s is bad, tasteless food, but you know I don’t mind it now and then. And again. But this really took the cake for bland and awful. On the other end of the scale a friend, an American friend in Japan always raved how he would never eat McDonald’s in America, but in Japan it was great. There always something fresher about McDonald’s over there I will say.

McDonald’s in Shanghai.

In some places you can really see some variation in the menus. India for example, doesn’t have the Maharaja Mac or indeed any beef products due to religion there, and there are no pork products on the menu there as is the case in many Muslim countries and Israel. The Maharaja Mac is a little spicey and it is a chicken burger, as is much of the menu there.

McDonald’s is always invented new burgers and putting temporary burgers on the menu. I remember travel in Europe and they were always trialling tastes of different countries which changed weekly. In Australia they tried a ‘McOz’ which replaced the McFeast a couple of decades back. It was a burger with beetroot, and was rather disappointing. Today you can get a McFeast in Australia, but the menu boards rarely have it on show. In fact here in McDonald’s there are a lot of extra items, Angus beef burgers, a whole range of chicken burgers, it’s actually a really big menu. And it’s supposedly made as you wait, a change from around 10+ years ago now. It takes a little longer, but it does taste fresher because there’s less time between making and consuming. I remember as a kid you could see huge rows of burgers waiting to be sold in the warming area.

A McDonald’s in New York City

But for me the biggest test is price. I remember back in 1999 paying around $17USD ($12USD) for a medium McChicken meal in Reykjavik, Iceland and this really showed that this was an expensive country. Because this is 20 plus years ago and in Australia that same meal was probably around $6-$7 AUD. In Israel 2019, twenty years later a similar meal was around $25AUD (around $18USD) . Nowadays it’s around $11-$12 for the same meal (maybe $7.50-$8USD) here in Melbourne. Actually in America, the home of the Big Mac, I found prices back in 2004 to be cheaper than at home.

It used to be that in a country like say Egypt, which I visited back in 1999, the meals were pretty cheap. A couple of USD would get you a McChicken or Big Mac meal, but I think these days it’s rare to see it that cheap even in cheaper countries. Yes, in Thailand I might save a dollar or two in a meal. But not much more. Incidentally, Thailand is the only country I have been outside the USA where you can get the extra large size, ‘super-size’ or whatever you call it, which in general sees a 600ml drink become something like a 1.2 litre drink I think it is, and the fries upscale too. And I only ate it once when I was last there, and I ordered ‘large’ so I guess they call in large in Thailand. Honestly, it’s pretty obscene and this is coming from someone who doesn’t mind McDonald’s.

A final thought for all y’all out there – I understand that in the UK and USA it’s common to call McDonald’s ‘Mickey D’s’, whereas in Australia it’s simply ‘Maccas’. Fun fact! Thanks for stopping by, take care, and yes, you guessed it – May the Journey Never End!

20 thoughts on “The ‘McDonald’s’ Test

  1. Their branches in Budapest and Porto are both stunning and worthy of a visit for those who aren’t even fans of the fast food giant. I’ve never heard the chain referred to as Mickey D’s in the U.K. but perhaps some people do call it that. Hope your weekend is going / went well Andy, Still bitterly cold here.

  2. cool post! and you know what’s also different? you have to pay for ketchup in McD in Croatia!! I don’t pay for that in France, in the UK, in Sweden..

  3. Nepal doesn’t have McDonalds. It is too expensive for most of the population and beef is a no no in Hindu culture. I ate at Burger King in Tibet and I think it has McDonalds too. I don’t recall if I saw any burger joints in India. American fast food is a welcome break from figuring out foreign menus at times.

  4. It’s so interesting that while the branding is the same, there are so many differences across different countries based on culture etc. We once had McDonald’s in Jamaica but they closed all the stores about 15 years ago because it wasn’t profitable. Jamaicans thought their burgers were too small and expensive, so they couldn’t successfully compete with KFC Jamaica. In fact, KFC is our most popular international fast food chain.

    1. McDonalds does a good job in stacking the calories in small burgers, thats for sure. interestingly i would have thought 20 years maybe 25 KFCs were closing down here and perhaps they would be gone. in victoria at least you dont see pizza hut anymore, maybe theres one hidden away i dont know. but KFC came back with a vengeance they started sponsoring the cricket and came up with some dreadful but memorable ad campaigns and now they are bigger than they have ever been in australia before. thanks for the read!

  5. Such an interesting post! McDonalds truly mastered their branding and marketing strategies. They are one of the few chains to successfully keep their identity while adapting to the local flavors and demands.

    I’ve been meaning to try out two other spots for a little cross-continental showdown: dominos and KFC!

    1. Dominoes I dont really get. them and pizza hut their pizzas are barely pizzas. here in Australia and especially Melbourne there are so many great local pizza shops that do delivery i dont know why you would order from Dominoes. The ability of these chains to open up in some many different parts of the world is impressive and yet a little depressing too.

  6. I am less and less a fan of McDonald’s, but it is true that its international presence makes it a good medium for comparing countries. I agree that quality can vary greatly from one place to another, even within a country between town and country, even between neighbourhoods depending on their level of oppulence or management competence.

    1. i shouldnt like mcdonalds. sadly i do. i find in australia at least its more consistent than some of the other chains like KFC and Hungry jack’s (Burger King) which is a bit of a lottery when you order.

  7. I haven’t had a meal at McDonald’s in YEARS (although I did go a couple of months ago just for coffee). Living in the US, it’s practically around every corner, and I don’t really like eating fast food to begin with. But I’ve heard that the McDonald’s elsewhere are so much better than the American ones (akin to the 7/11s in Asia, despite originated in the US…), especially in East Asian countries like Taiwan and South Korea. Even in France, its McDonald’s sell macarons! Fun fact: the McDonald’s in Batumi, Georgia is STUNNING, like a spaceship– truly one of the most-unique McD I’ve seen, let alone as an architectural feat, in general!

  8. You can say about McDonalds what you want, but for me it has been a lifesaver many times. It is cheap – good for people on budget, in the US you get unlimited refills on drinks – saved me in Las Vegas as was too hot for me and I actually like McDonalds in different countries. I had a Macha Burger once and the burger I tried in Tokyo was just plain weird, but tasty. I know it is not authentic food, but you always know what you are getting when ordering a Big Mac. Some people like familiarity and others like it exotic.

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