updated - May 21, 2013 Tuesday EDT
US fast-food giant McDonald's, famous for its beef-based Big Mac burgers, will now open up its first vegetarian-only restaurant in India next year.
The world's second-biggest restaurant chain after Subway tailors its menus to suit local tastes, which in India means no beef to avoid offending Hindus and no pork to cater for Muslim requirements.
Both of the restaurants will open next year in India - one in the city of Amritsar, the holiest site in the Sikh religion, and one in the town of Katra, a "jump-off point" for Hindus visiting the mountain shrine of Vaishno Devi, according to the Financial Times.
It's all because of local preferences. Cows are sacred in India, and much of the country is vegetarian. So the existing McDonald's locations in India don't serve beef, but they do serve lots of chicken in its place.
"A vegetarian store makes absolute sense in the places which are famous as pilgrimage sites," said Rajesh Kumar Maini, a spokesman for McDonald's India.
McDonald's in India currently offer chicken patties as a replacement for all its meat burgers, but it also offers a repertoire of vegetarian meals: the McVeggie, a patty of carrots, peas with potato, a McAloo Tikki, a patty of spicy mashed potatoes, deep fried, and McSpicy Paneer, a patty of traditional Indian cheese.
It already has a menu that is 50 percent vegetarian. Its McAloo Tikki burger at 28 rupees or 50 cents -- which uses a spicy fried potato-based patty -- is the top seller, accounting for a quarter of total sales.
Currently India, with its population of 1.2 billion, is still a "very small market for McDonald's", said Maini. "We have just 271 restaurants in India and across the world we have nearly 33,000," Maini said.
The move is an effort to expand in India and better relate to the strict diets of customers there. Of the nearly 33,000 restaurants McDonald's has across the world it has just 271 in India.
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