McDonald’s uses Kuwait as test market for gourmet burger strategy

McDonald’s is testing its latest product, the Create Your Taste burger, in five countries including Kuwait.

The burger giant aims to break into the fast gourmet burger niche with a modernized and innovative service. The Create Your Taste menu offers a made-to-order gourmet burger option in addition to the existing menu. Customers can now walk up to a kiosk and use a touch screen to create their sandwich exactly how they like it. Once they are done, servers use a table tracker to bring the food to the table in a gourmet basket. The idea is to improve the options available to customers in an innovative way, but not change McDonald's image. 

More than $2 billion is spent annually in restaurants in Kuwait, and about 15 percent of the population dines out every day. With 136 restaurants for each of its 3.5 million residents, the competition is fierce in this small Gulf country.

“Here in Kuwait it is such an advanced market, that’s why it’s the fifth in the world,” said Sherif Coutry, marketing director for Al Maousherji Catering Company, which is the owner and operator of Kuwait McDonald’s. “The food here is so advanced, there are so many options. Kuwaitis and people that live in Kuwait are very picky about their food.”

McDonald’s addition of the Create Your Taste menu will put it in competition with other franchise brands that have made their international debut in Kuwait. In 2010 TabCo. introduced the first branch of Elevation Burger, a chain that first opened in Arlington, Virginia. In 2011, one of the first international branches of the New York-based Shake Shack opened in Kuwait.

A report released by Global Markets, a market research consultancy firm in Kuwait, shows these brands are rapidly expanding their branches around the country and compete head to head with brands like McDonalds. According to Nabila Al-Anjari, general manger of the Leaders Group for Consultants and organizers of HORECA, Kuwait’s largest annual hospitality conference, the restaurant industry has a 10 percent annual growth rate.

The introduction comes in the wake of an online video released by McDonald's CEO Steve Easterbrook in which he stated that he “will not shy away from the urgent need to reset this business. We have to modernize our approach and run the business differently.”

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