How Come Nobody Re-imports "Foreign" Fast Food?

A blog about business and economics.
Jan. 23 2013 2:43 PM

How Come Nobody Re-imports "Foreign" Fast Food?

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Jeb Boniakowski thinks the world needs a gigantic flagship McDonald's that serves all the dishes from all the McDonald's menus around the world. The suggestion is so clearly correct that I won't further belabor the point.

But this is a good subsidiary point:

Everyone talks about how globalization "McDonalds-izes" the world, but the funny thing about a place like New York is that you can get basically every kind of food *except* whatever they serve at the foreign outposts of our proud American chains. I would say I know more people who have had a lamb face salad from the Xi'an Famous Foods in the Golden Mall in Flushing than have had the poutine from the Montreal McDonald's, never mind something you really have to travel for, like a Chicken Maharaja Mac. Frequently, when I travel outside of the USA, my trips to the local McDonald's are the most genuinely foreign-feeling and disorienting part of the trip. I went to Paris last year. There are probably ten restaurants within walking distance of my old Williamsburg apartment that are varyingly obsessive imitations of Parisian bistros, Parisian bars, Parisian brasseries. If they were hung in museums, the wall texts next to them would say "School of Keith McNally." But there is not a single place in New York that serves a Croque McDo.
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Re-importation of "foreign" dishes back to the original chain home base seems to be extremely rare. In some cases it seems pretty obvious that there really wouldn't be much of an American market for a Croque McDo. But the vegetarian options from Indian McDonald's? Why not?

Matthew Yglesias is the executive editor of Vox and author of The Rent Is Too Damn High.