Adam Hedengren
Last updated: 29 May, 2012

McDonald’s & Co expand in the Middle East

The world’s largest chain of hamburger fast food restaurants, McDonald’s, is looking to grow in the Middle East and Africa.

At the end of last year, the fast-food giant had 833 restaurants in 17 markets in the region, according to Hotelier Middle East. McDonald’s regional managing director, Yousif Abdulghani, is optimistic about the future and has expressed the company’s plans for further expansion within the region.

“We’re growing by 10-15% each year, with Saudi Arabia and the UAE having the biggest growth potential,” he said at the Gulfood conference in February.

Last September, the chain made a strong push in the Gulf market as it rolled out a large marketing campaign. The commercials, called Family Time, were broadcast on television along with print and outdoor ads. It was supposed to strike at the heart of traditional Arab society where the family remains the very foundation.

But not everyone is welcoming the arrival of the multinational brand. Earlier this year, the popular website Tunisia Live reported that McDonald’s were looking to set up a franchise in Tunisia, a rumour that was eventually denied by the company itself. Yet, the reactions in social media were ambiguous to say the least – some fearing that a McDonald’s franchise would take out small local businesses and street vendors. Many called on the government to stop supporting multinationals and instead bring more attention and assistance to local restaurants that will benefit the community.

McDonald’s is not the only US-based burger chain to look for growth in the Middle East. In March, its biggest global competitor, Burger King, which operates more than 250 restaurants across 9 countries in the MENA region, launched an emotional campaign celebrating its 20 years in the Middle East. Also, the quickly-growing Smashburger has announced the opening of two new outlets in the region in 2012 and Fatburger, Elevation Burger and Shake Schack have all either opened or are currently developing outlets in Dubai and Kuwait City.