Global Perspectives on Fast-Food History
Since its founding, the Coca-Cola Company had global ambitions. In 1906 Coca-Cola opened its first operation outside the United States when it launched a bottling company in Cuba. Shortly thereafter soda fountains and bottling operations were instituted in Canada, Germany, Hawaii, the Philippines, Bermuda, Mexico, France and the United Kingdom. Woodruff dramatically expanded the international thrust of the operation. By 1930 Coca-Cola had sixty-four bottlers in twenty-eight countries. Likewise, Pepsi-Cola began to develop their international market, when they established operations in Canada in 1934. By 1936 they expanded to the United Kingdom, Mexico, the Dominican Republic, and shortly thereafter to Venezuela and Central America.
During World War II Coca-Cola dramatically expanded its international operations. As American military moved throughout the world, Coca-Cola went with them. Coke established bottling plants behind the lines as American forces moved into France, Germany, India, the Philippines, Australia and the United Kingdom.
Two good examples are their activities in Brazil and Japan. Brazil was introduced to Coca-Cola in 1942. By 1974 Brazilians were quaffing 56 million bottles of soft drinks, of which 58 percent were Coke products. Today, Brazilians drink the equivalent of 131 eight-ounce servings of Coke every year.
Coca-Cola was introduced to the Japanese during the American military occupation after World War II. By 1979 Coke boasted of 430,000 vending machines throughout Japan. Today, there are 870,000 vending machines, and the Japanese per capita consumption of Coke equals 144 eight-ounce servings per year. While the Coca-Cola Company has not acquired fast-food chains as PepsiCo has done, it does have close working relationships with companies such as McDonald's, which sells Coca-Cola products.
Likewise, PepsiCo's international division has also seen tremendous growth. Today it operates in 190 countries and receives about 29 percent of their revenue from foreign sales.
Coca-Cola, however, still remains the world's largest soft drink dispenser. It sells its products in almost 200 countries. Its global revenues exceed 80 percent of total sales. Reflecting this shift from cultivating solely a domestic market to embrace an international audience, Coke's commercials featured the songs "I'd Like to Teach the World to Sing" and "We Are the World."
Nor was the rapid growth of fast-food chains limited to the United States. Hamburger establishments caught on quickly in Canada and the United Kingdom. Today, there are few countries that do not sport an American fast-food restaurant, and these foreign establishments are expanding at a fast clip. McDonald's for instance, continues to flourish in other countries. By 1988 McDonald's had 2,600 locations abroad. In 1994 McDonald's counted over 4,500 restaurants in 73 other countries. Today, there are more than 8,000 restaurants in 101 countries.
McDonald's restaurants number over one thousand in Japan alone. The most popular restaurant in Japan measured by volume of customers is McDonald's, with Kentucky Fried Chicken in second place. Today, France has 538 McDonald's restaurants; Australia, 615; Germany, (the home of the original "hamburger") 743; United Kingdom, 693; and Canada almost 900. When McDonald's opened its first restaurant in Minsk, over 4,000 Belorussians showed up forcing the operators to call in the police for crowd control. When it was constructed, the McDonald's in business near Red Square in Moscow was the largest in the world. Today, the largest McDonald's restaurant overlooks Tiananmen Square in Beijing. There are now 127 McDonald's in China, and more are under construction.
McDonald' s international sales already account for $15 billion out of a total of almost $32 billion. Of its total revenue, 59 percent of its corporate profits are generated by restaurants in other countries. And this is likely to increase. Every day three new McDonald's restaurants open some place in the world.
There are many reasons for the success of fast-food chains in other countries. Most chains have adapted to foreign cultures.
For instance, in addition to its usual fare, McDonald's sells wine in France, black currant shakes in Poland, salads with shrimp in Germany, vegetarian burgers in Holland and India, tatsuta chicken sandwich (with ginger and soy sauce) in Japan, and a salmon sandwich, called McLaks, in Norway. Other factors contributing to this success abroad are cleanliness, a family atmosphere, bathrooms, and air-conditioning in addition to efficient service. In addition, fast-food chains encourage employees to smile while interacting with customers. While these services may not seem unusual to you, many are great innovations in other countries.
Despite the rapid success of fast-food and soft drink enterprises throughout
the world, there has been heated criticism of the affects on local cultures and
businesses. Some consider the rapid expansion of soft drinks and fast-food
chains as examples of an insidious American imperialism that is destroying
local cultures and values. What do you think?