Looking at McDonaldization: How McDonalds Localized its Global Empire

Posted by Jamie Balkin

In the 3.4 seconds it took you to read this first sentence, McDonalds has sold approximately 255 hamburgers. Perhaps selling 75 hamburgers per second assisted in their $22.7 billion global revenue this past year. Since its inception, McDonalds continues to grow exponentially in both revenue and customer reaches. Now, almost everyone recognizes the golden arches. In fact, according to a survey done by Sponsorship Research International, more people recognize the arches than the Christian Cross. Despite concern over the quality of its products, McDonalds has become a household name and an international enterprise that holds significant power in the global food economy. As they grow overseas–with locations in over 119 countries—65% of their monstrous revenue is derived from international accounts. With revenue ranking them the 90th largest economy in the world, a franchise like McDonalds required a globalization plan. In particular, McDonalds recognized that different countries and regions have specific tastes and preferences. As a result, McDonalds developed niche menu items to cater to the respective local markets, making them a localization leader.

Here are some examples of how McDonalds localized their menus.


  • Japan

Ebi Filet-O: Shrimp patty, Thousand Island dressing and lettuce                                                

The 270 yen ($2.40) sandwich was introduced in attempt to win over the Japanese palate. The shrimp burger developed specifically for Japan is a bit similar to the Filet-O-Fish, except it’s filled  with shrimp.

  • Malaysia

McD Chicken Porridge: Chicken and onions in porridge

McDonald’s restaurants in Malaysia are certified halal, so no pork products are offered. However, chicken is on the menu, and it comes in many forms — from nuggets to the much-better-sounding option of chicken strips in rice porridge served with scallions, sliced ginger, fried shallots, and chiles.

  • Asia

Seaweed Shaker Fries

McDonald’s serves its classic fries with a packet of seaweed flavoring for this dish.

  • India

Chicken Maharaja Mac: Big Mac with spicy grilled chicken instead of beef

For 60 rupees (about $1.30), McDonalds India offers this chicken sandwich due to the Hindu dietary law prohibiting the consumption of beef. The Maharaja replaces the Big Mac. Also on the Indian menu are the McVeggie and the McChicken.

  • Russia

Brie Nuggets: Fried Brie

Cheesy, fried nugget goodness.


  • Turkey

McTurco: Two beef patties, vegetables, and cayenne pepper sauce on pita

The McTurco Meat is basically a Kofteburger (Turkish-spiced minced beef patty with a toasted special bun with what appears to be dried parsley on top, filled with ketchup, onions, lettuce, and yogurt sauce) wrapped in a warm pita.
The variations are two KöfteBurger patties, hot pepper sauce, onions, lettuces, and two tomato slices.

  • Greece

Greek Mac: Beef or chicken, tzatziki sauce, lettuce, and tomato on pita

  • Spain

Gazpacho: classic summer soup is served chilled with chopped tomatoes, cucumbers, onions, celery, lemon juice, and hot sauce

  • Germany

Beer: outlets of McDonald’s sell beer in their store

  • New Zealand

 Kiwi Burger: Beef, tomato, fried egg, lettuce, tomato, and beetroot


  • Canada

Poutine: French fries and cheese curds smothered in gravy

To see more unique McDonalds’ items, click here.

As displayed above, to the delight of many and to the dismay of others, the golden arches of McDonald’s can be seen all over the world.  In an excerpt from the book Found in Translation, author Nataly Kelly discusses her five key takeaways in McDonald’ global success:

  1. Don’t confuse your brand with your products.While it’s true that the McDonald’s brand is strongly associated with hamburgers, this has not prevented the company from dropping all meat from some local menus. McDonald’s announced that it will open up its first vegetarian restaurants in India, a nod to the dietary preferences and religious beliefs of local customers.
  2. Figure out which products have international appeal.It’s quite likely that some of your products might be desirable in every market, as McDonald’s has found. Some of the company’s products, such as its fries and shakes, stay consistent at most of its global locations.
  3. View a new market as a chance to take on new brand attributes.While McDonald’s is known for its affordable fare in the United States, in many countries with a growing middle class, it can actually be a status symbol to be seen eating there. Don’t assume that just because your brand has negative aspects in one market that it will necessarily carry them into another.
  4. Remember that “small markets” may very well define your future. Many companies make the mistake of only focusing on major world economies. McDonald’s is a global company, but about 70 percent of its revenue, which normally tops $20 billion annually, comes from restaurants in Australia, Canada, China, France, Germany, Japan, the United Kingdom, and of course, the United States. Paying attention to those countries that “only” make up 30 percent of the company’s revenue is a wise move. As their spending power grows, so too does their share of the pie.
  5. Let your customers tell you what they want. McDonald’s did not come up with all those adapted product offerings in isolation from its customers. Rather, the company observed the behaviors of customers in these local markets and packaged their products in ways that would seem local and familiar. When was the last time you adapted a product for a new market based on in-country customer feedback? You should.

In order to be successful, any company must capitalize on lesson number five, essentially always listening to the customer. Without the demand, there is no need for your company to provide the supply. To grow your company’s international demand, such as McDonalds did, you must be sure to implement localization to adhere to your target customers. If you are a business or company looking to enhance your localization strategy check us out at Lionbridge onDemand.