Ho Chi Minh City, Oct 7 (IANS) American fast food chains, despite being hugely popular initially, seem to have failed to win over Vietnam, owing to tough competition from local food options and an inability to adapt to local taste buds.
In February 2014, when McDonald’s opened its first outlet in Ho Chi Minh City, hundreds of people had waited in line for over an hour to taste the hamburgers made famous by Hollywood movies, Efe news reported.
The future of the franchise, brought to Vietnam by Henry Nguyen — son-in-law of then-Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung — had seemed promising and several more outlets had opened up in the following months in different parts of Ho Chi Minh City.
There was a proposal to set up another hundred outlets spread over a decade.
However, three and a half years later, with just 15 restaurants in the country, the company has had to rethink its strategy.
According to Kantar market research group’s head Ashish Kanchan, the shrinking popularity of fast food chains like McDonald’s owes to their failure to fuse local flavors in their food, something they have been able to do successfully in countries such as Thailand.
Burger King, another US-based fast food outlet, which entered the Vietnamese market three years ago, too finds itself in a similar predicament and has been forced of late to shut down six of its outlets, according to the website Vietnamnet.
Another reason for the declining popularity of American fast food in the country, Kanchan pointed out, is that Vietnamese people are healthy eaters and hence calorie-laden fast food is not often a popular choice.
“I don’t like this type of food because it is not fresh, it is fried food which is not good for health,” said Ngoc Chau, 35, who still prefers local food despite having lived abroad many years.
Moreover, Vietnam also offers a wide array of sumptuous street food, which is far cheaper than international fast food chains and more suited to the local palate.
However, the Vietnamese have not turned away from all kinds of American fast food. Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC), which entered the country 20 years ago, continues to be popular, Kanchan said.