Monday, September 26, 2011

McDonald's in Brazil VERY different than McDonald's in the US!



Endives, Escarole and Chicory at Brazilian Mc Donald's Salads
  I have always noticed that Mc Donald's in Brazil is very different than Mc Donald's in the US. Since my first time inside an American Mc Donald's in 1989 I noticed that was something off about the Mc Donald's in the United States. I could tell right away that the quality was much inferior in the North American Mc Donald's.
It's no coincidence Mc Donald's is MUCH cheaper in the US, it is also much worse, no really, taste wise and quality, it is down right poor over here, which is nonsense, because this is the land of Mc Donald's, right! Right!
Seriously, where in an American Mc Donald's would you find Chicken Parmigiana Sandwich, Tomato-Caprese Salad, Green Salads that include Chicory, Escarole, Endives? Not anywhere around here, unfortunately.
I have always thought unfair when certain economists use the infamous Mc Donald's index to compare cost of living in different countries, also known as the Big Mac Index.
Just plain wrong.
Mc Donald's in the United States is marketed and catered to a complete different segment of the population comparing to Brazil or Argentina for example.
In Brazil, Mc Donald's has always been advertised as somewhat of a fancy meal, a treat if you may, something special you can do when you want to splurge a little.
The quality of Mc Donald's products in Brazil has always been extremely high, much higher than in the land of Uncle Sam where Mc Donald's was created.

HERE is an article that talks about Brazilian Mc Donald's improving the quality of it's product even more as of October 1st by reducing sodium and sugar content in it's Brazilian branches menu.

I remember when I first visited a Mc Donald's in Sao Paulo back in 1979, at Paulista Avenue, it was a special treat for my brother, my sisters and I, we loved it. Until then we only knew Jack in the Box, another North American favorite that used to be in Sao Paulo in the 1970's, at the time, I still liked Jack in the Box better than Mc Donald's for the simple reason that Jack in the Box had outdoor seating and Mc Donald's was a closed location inside an Air Conditioned building, plus Jack in the Box had outdoor playground for us kids.
I recently read an article that just came to confirm my old suspicions, Mc Donald's in Brazil really is designed, catered and marketed for the upper middle classes, products are of higher quality, restaurants are usually located in fancier neighborhoods and prices are higher than most other Mc Donald's I have ever been to, much higher, and it's no coincidence. I read it's the same thing in Argentina and a few other countries.
I can tell you Brazilian Mc Donald's always has cool new different surprises for you, new pies, new sandwiches, natural fruit juices such as Orange Juice ( Freshly Squeezed ), Passion Fruit Juice and I even tried a delicious fresh Peach Juice once that was really good.
Brazilian Mc Donald's also have some awesome options for breakfast which include delicious Ciabatta Bread and Freshly Baked French rolls.
So, next time you see an economic report using the infamous BIG MAC index, remember, a Big Mac is not the same everywhere, not at all.
So, it's all relative.
I am not saying Brazil is not expensive, because it really, really is, principally if you are from the US and you are used to cheap imported crap from China making your life easier, forget about it. Brazil has some serious protectionist policies against imports and some high tariffs to keep the country's industry alive and you won't find cheap tennis shoes, cars, clothes or electronics for that matter.
Food on the other hand is of much higher quality in Brazil for the most part.
In my opinion is because in Brazil food is produced much closer to the consumer markets and distribution logistics are a completely different animal comparing to the US for example. Not to mention year round great weather for agriculture.
Just for the record. I am not a fan of McDonald's by any means, but for someone who travels a lot around the world for work like I do, Mc Donald's has saved the day more times than I can count.
Even when traveling around some parts of the US, you can always count on Mc Donald's for consistency and speed.
So, what do you think?
Have you noticed any difference in Mc Donald's from different countries?
How about Brazil and the US Mc Donald's? :)


Ray

39 comments:

Alex said...

the big question is...does it still make you fat? hahha

But I know in Mexico too, they are much better quality than here. I found it strange too that a regular $1 menu thing here was like 40,000 pesos there.

Ray and Gil said...

Alex,

You are right!
Mexico's McDonald's also caters to upper middle classes and God knows McDonald's have saved me in Mexico more than once.;)


Ray

Nina said...

My Brother is in China and he said Mc Donald's target is only rich Chinese. The same goes for KFC and Pizza Hut. But they are super gross in the US and I won't eat it. Being Veggie there is nothing I can eat anyways.

Ray and Gil said...

Nina,

I hear you. Not only the food is sub-par but homeless folks in the Boston metro usually bathe in the McDonald's restroom's sinks.
I can't picture that anywhere in Brazil.
McDonald's down there really are in nicer areas of towns.
My best friend was in China recently and bought a McDonald's coffee mug, it looks like those bulky nicer mugs you get at a Starbucks for 12 bucks.

Ray

Jennifer Souza said...

The ridiculously low price in the US is related to farm subsidies and government price setting for the main ingredients- wheat, soy, corn, corn feed and dairy.

My husband calls it all 'Fat Food'. At first, it as a language mistake, but he decided to keep it. If the shoe fits?

Anonymous said...

i love McCheddar ! its the only sandwich I like from mcdonalds and I can only find it in Brazil.

Jana said...

Actaully one of the reasons it is so different is because it is almost a completely different company. Its not like its franchised out of the US, its run like a separate company in South America. I am not entirely sure if this is the case in other continents but I know that is why everything feels so much different down here at least.

Jessica said...

Really? I just assumed it was all the same stuff. I'll have to go check it out more closely; so far our only McDonald's experience was running into the one in Extra for a very quick lunch. I had the quarter-pounder with cheese, which tasted exactly the same to me.

Ray and Gil said...

Jessica,

The differences are very subtle in products that are supposed to be the same like the quarter po or the Big Mac. However, one thing McDonald's couldn't replicate in Brazil even if they wanted to is the beef. Brazilian Beef is 100% naturally grass feed because of the abundance of fertile soil, good weather and enough rain to keep pastures green year round. Beef in the US is almost all grain feed, which makes a big difference in the fat content.
McDonald's main reason for success is their ability to replicate their products consistently across the globe, so these differences are very subtle indeed. You will notice more difference in the products they sell in Brazil that you can't find elsewhere.
McDonald's in New England has occasionally sold Lobster Rolls with real Lobster meat, which is delicious and I miss it terribly, but I haven't seen it in a little while.
I have seen delicious/authentic German bratwurst at McDonald's across parts of Pennsylvania, most of these local products are exceptions but a welcoming surprise when we see them. ;)

Ray

Ray and Gil said...

Jana,

Good point.
I thought McDonald's bought back their Brazilian franchise a couple of years ago, there was a big fuss on Wallstreet about that. I am not sure about the rest of South America.


Ray

Ray and Gil said...

Jennifer,

You also make a good point, I had forgotten about those hefty farm subsidies.
Brazil also has some farm subsidies. I am really not sure what products and how much that would affect prices in Brazil.

Ray

Ray and Gil said...

Annon,

I remember the McCheddar and yes, it is very tasty. Gee, I haven't had one of those in years.

Ray

Rachel said...

What are you talking about?! McDonalds here are freaking ghetto! Man, the urine smell from the bathroom hits you when you walk in the door. And the food is not better (although they had my McChicken sandwich down here when the US stopped making it)

And it may taste different because the US workers make your food like a speed using crack addict and the Brazilians take their damn sweet time. I don't know which is worse! Give a little effort and efficiency people! I think the two need to get together and find a spot in the middle.

Btw, they also don't give you enough sauce for your nuggets. I need sauce! ;)

Ray and Gil said...

Rachel,

Smell of urine? Really?
I have never seen that in a Brazilian McDonald's. My experience has been completely different.
There is one McDonald's at Paulista Avenue in Sao Paulo that was built at a beautiful old Mansion. There is awesome antique black and white marble all over the place and a Grand Piano near the "Gone with the Wind" type staircase and they play Mozart and Bethoven during lunch and dinner peak hours, it is really cool.
The ones I know are usually in nicer areas and are spotless clean.
Beef in Brazil is naturally heathier and of higher quality because the cattle grase on green grass and are never on corn, which makes them fatter and produces beef of inferior quality.
There is grass feed beef in the US nowadays, but it costs an arm and a leg. You can find it at Wholefoods at 25 bucks a pound.
I doubt you will ever find Escarole, Chicory, Watercress or Arugula at American McDonald's like they are planning for the Brazilin McDonald's, it would definitely be a great surprise.
I totally hear you on the chicken McNuggets sauce, I also always had to fight until I got enough ;) ( By the way, they had a "caipira" mc nuggets sauce that was awesome, not sure if they still have it) :D


Ray

Ray and Gil said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Renato S. Alves said...

Well, well, well
I think both countries have good and bad. Rachel is right Ray, not all stores are like Paulista Av store. Some are very nasty.
All McDonald's stores I've been in US are very dirty. Even the new remodel ones!
However, near Disney, there are fantastic stores with everything you could imagine(wi-fi, games, tv, etc) and for the same price of the others.
About salads, it is rare to see someone ordering one, but anyway with the price of one McSalad in Brazil (almost 3 times more) they should be able to keep the stores spotless, maybe even with a red carpet.
While here a combo n. 1 costs less than 7 dollars (less than 1 hour of the minimum american salary), in Brazil it costs almost 17 reais (6.8 hours of the brazilian minimum salary).
Even though is nicier down there, it is expansive and a shame that is only affordable for part of the population like a lot of things in Brazil. This is what pisses me off!
:@

Ray and Gil said...

Dear Renato,

Thanks for helping me clarify my point.
My post was aimed at Economist who insist on comparing apples to oranges, because McDonalds around the world are indeed different, not my opinion, just a fact. They are catered to different segments of the population and are marketed and priced differently.
Having said that, you can't possibly have a BIG MAC index to compare cost of living in different countries.
Perhaps more consistent products such a gallon of gasoline, a Coca Cola or Gillete razors would be a more appropriated product to measure cost of living in different countries. Not to mention the fact that people use gasoline and razors much more frequently then they eat a BIG MAC, or so we hope. ;)

Ray

Born Again Brazilian said...

This is good to know because I would NEVER feed my daughter American McDonald's, but here I've been coerced into some little nibbles because her cousin likes to go to the big McDonald's Playland on Reboucas. If the American McDonald's food wasn't crap, they wouldn't be able to offer their $1 promotions to all the unsuspecting lower income families.

thetaoofme.com said...

We don't have a McDonalds in our town, but there is one up in Macae. Now I'm curious to see if it's actually different. Hmm. I think I'll stop in with my daughter when she's here (hopefully) in a few weeks. I'll let you know!

I've tagged you as a winner of the "Versatile Blogger" award on my blog. Hope you don't mind.
http://thetaoofme.com/2011/10/04/the-versatile-blogger/
Peg

Ray and Gil said...

B.A.B,

I hear you! That McDonald's on the corner of Reboucas Av and Brasil Av has a fiece playground on steroids. ;)

Ray

Ray and Gil said...

Dear Peg,

I don't mind at all.
Thank you for thinking of us. :)

Ray

ojeitobrasileiro said...

Well I'm hoping the Oct 1 upgrade improves McDonalds, because I have gotten insanely ill off of the ice cream cones here, and I think the meat (I don't care if Brazilian meat is better, McDonalds has never been known for quality meat here or in the US), it tastes like crap and I can barely choke it down... and it's SUPER salty. Granted McDonalds is the best "fast food" I've had here, because the other Brazilian chains are probably selling a mix of cat meat and cardboard (going off of taste here). But yes, I do agree that the salads are WAY better.
Rachel-- um have you EVER received fast service at any Brazilian restaurant? There truly is no such thing here.. not that that's always a bad thing, but I've never encountered fast.

Anonymous said...

ojeitobrasileiro,

Funny. Once you say the fast food in Brazil are salty and tastes like cardboard, then why in the world you eat it and how can you affirm it's like cat food as you use the word PROBABLY to say that? Besides, have you ever had cat food for dinner? I am from Europe and have had traveled to Sao Paulo back and forth because of business reasons. I have done it for a whole decade and while in Sao Paulo I had all sorts of food for dinner from hot dogs from the street stands till the finest dinning in the Jardins area and never ever had somethings that I could compare with cat food. I do think you are a bit offensive in you statement, not to mention, you sound bitter about your Brazilian restaurant experience.

Paolo

Ray and Gil said...

Dear ojeitobrasileiro,

You got sick from a McDonald's ice cream cone? I didn't think that was even possible, both the cone and the ice cream are industrialized and pasteurized. I wonder how that happened. Brazilian restaurants have very high standards of hygiene.
Cat food, ha! really! Sorry, I will have to take your word for it! ;)
I am not a big fast food eater at all.

However I have to say I miss Bob's Ovaltine Shake and Bob's Burgers are always served with Escarole instead of Iceberg lettuce, that is one of their trademarks. I love this Carioca chain, Bob's is really good if you ask me, maybe even better than McDonald's. Let me think, cat food..., you must be talking about Habib's in Sao Paulo, I never ate at Habib's, it wasn't that popular when I was in Brazil, but what can you expect from a 30 cents Esfiha! I would stay away from Habib's unless you are on a budget, then, they will be your best friend. :)

I can't think of any other Brazilian fast food chains. Fastfood is really not a big thing in Brazil at all.

Brazilian's style is more a Churrascaria or a high quality Sushi if you are in Sao Paulo.
My original point was the lack of consistency and the unrealistic comparisons when economists use the "Big Mac Index", because they are catered,marketed and priced to different segments of the society in different countries, upper middle class in Brazil, an economic option for the middle class in the US.
I love and miss lean tasty Brazilian beef very much. I will take grass fed beef over grain fed beef any day.


TO BE CONTINUED...

Ray and Gil said...

CONTINUED from previous comment:


I also have to say that my experiences in Brazilian restaurants, principally in Sao Paulo and Rio is that the service is 100 times better than most restaurants I have ever been anywhere in the US, even the nice ones. Europe has better service too, just like Brazil, waiters in Europe are also usually more professional and not your occasional high school teen.
In the US, I am always under the impression that the waiters are making me this huge favor to serve me, people usually have a bad attitude, not to mention the nasty tattooed/pierced high school kids we often find working in restaurants with the ever so present nasty attitude to match and the ever so present chewing gum with their mouth wide open.
Brazilian waiters are usually older people, usually make a career out of the profession and love what they do, they are organized in unions and are very proud of their profession.
If you think the service is not as fast as you are used to back in the US, you are probably correct, and that is simply because you will never find a microwave in a Brazilian restaurant.
Things are cooked fresh when you order them, that is why it tastes so much better.
In the US, you will most likely be eating a meal served faster because it was taken out of a cardboard box frozen and thrown in a microwave, bingo, you eat faster. Thanks but no thanks, I'd rather wait for better quality.
I found a round piece of cardboard once at a trout dish I ordered at Harry's ( Cajun ), the waiter apologized and said it had fallen off the cardboard box where it was shipped frozen and trown in the microwave before served to us. I was embarrassed to say the list, because I was taking a Spanish friend out to dinner, and Harry's was one of my favorite places up to that point.
Having said all that, I have to say that over the years, I have learned the good restaurants with great service around the US cities I visit. I do stay away from chains, where you will most likely be eating a pre-frozen, just microwaved entree.
The bad service and poor quality/tasting food will never be found in most non-chain restaurants in Providence/Boston/New York city for example. I will have to give an exception for chains such as the "Capital Grill" and the "Ocean Grill" in New York city, always great fresh/never frozen meals and great service, but again, not fast, a nice prepared meal will never be served fast. Watch out of those microwaved entrees ;)





Ray

ojeitobrasileiro said...

Ahh I'm not bitter. I love Brazilian food here. The restaurants are great.. but they're restaurants. The Lanchonettes don't exist in the US, and those are the true fast food here (and like I said great). But if you go to places as Ray mentioned Habibs, or I can't remember what but it was bad... heck even Subway was bad here, expecting American fast food speeds, it is not going to happen, and it's not going to be good. But with your recommendation, maybe we will try Bob's. I've got a 1 year old, so sometimes the allure of a quick in and out meal calls to us while we're on the road.

To Ray's point I do trust fast food here more than I do in the US. It's a real job to these people not some after school goof off time for some high school kid who's probably peeing in your soda. But yeah, seriously got sick off of the cones (I of course was in Teresina, Piaui, so grain of salt), but still I did get sick. And I still stand by my statement, the burgers here taste bad (unless you buy them at a burger restaurant then it's good Brazilian meat) at fast food restaurants

Ray and Gil said...

Dear ojeitobrasileiro,

Please don't get me wrong, I do believe you when you say that you got sick with a McDonald's ice cream cone. It's just that one would expect to hear something like that related to salad or badly cooked meat.
I am not familiar with Piaui, but I hear you, that must had been very annoying. We do rely on McDonald's while traveling because it is the place we should trust not to get sick. Sorry to hear that happened to you.

Ray

Ray and Gil said...

Annon,

I do appreciate your comment, but please trust me, ojeitobrasileiro is not bitter at all, her complaint is totally valid. I am Brazilian and I get super irritated when I am in Brazil with the speed of service, and not only in Restaurants, sometimes it gets very annyoing how slow some grocery store cashiers or other clerks can be while helping you. In the US, we are used to very quick interaction when paying for some product or service.
I almost had a freaking heart attack last year while buying a pair of socks and underwear at a large department store in Sao Paulo ( American Airlines had lost our luggage ) and I was late for a meeting with bankers. I just wanted a pair of socks and a couple underwears, the cashier went on to ask me for my CPF ( Brazilian version of social security number ). Really! My Social Security! My Brazilian Social Security was canceled sometime in the late 90's. I DON'T HAVE ONE!
Nope, she wouldn't take NO for an answer. She kept asking me about a "Nota Paulista", which is a process in which if you supply the store with the Social Security number it adds up and at the end of the year you get a rebate from the Governament.
Long story short, I didn't have the darn Brazilian CPF, she didn't know how to bypass the system and had to call a manager.
It took me all of 25 minutes to buy two socks and two pairs of underwear. I was really upset to say the least. I had many situations like this while trying to pay for stuff in Brazil.
So I totally understand "ojeitobrasileiro's" complain regarding speed of service.


Ray

Tom Le Mesurier said...

Just adding my 2 centavos, I noticed the exact same thing with KFC here in Rio. A new one opened near work and my (Brazilian) colleagues were all quite excited and suggested going for lunch on a Friday like it was some kind of fancy treat! (we usually go somewhere a bit nice on a Friday). I didn't join them that day (had a bad experience with KFC 15 years ago and now I just can't!)

Bradc7 said...

Friends of mine went to the USA and wanted to try McDonald's over there. They thought it would be good, even great, considering it is the home of fast food. They said compared to our McDonald's here in Australia, the McDonald's in the USA was terrible and tasted like cardboard, they could not eat it.
My friends that live in Brazil, say the McDonald's there is much better that the USA too.

American Heart Brazilian Soul said...

Tom,

I hear you, I also have a hard time with KFC in the US, they are usually in bad parts of town, dirty, greasy and nasty looking.

Ray

American Heart Brazilian Soul said...

Bradc7,

Yes, you are right, the whole company strategy is completely different in the US or in Brazil, and I am sure in Australia as well.
In the US, they target a public looking for the absolute cheapest, fastest or most convenient meal, with complete disregard to quality. In Brazil, it target's the middle and upper classes and the quality has to be significantly higher.

Thanks for your comment

Ray

Jennifer Souza said...

Plus KFC uses animals that have been maltreated. :-(

I've eaten fast food all over, and it's much better outside of the US. there's something to be said for real sugar in soda!

American Heart Brazilian Soul said...

Jennifer,

When we first moved to the US we didn't understand why Brazilians living here would pay 3 box PER CAN of Orange Fanta imported from Brazil, when they could buy a 12 Pack Orange Fanta from Albertson's or Kroger for U$3,50, until the owner of the Brazilian store open a Brazilian Orange Fanta and an American Orange Fanta and made us try both!
I learned first hand the difference between CORN SYRUP and SUGAR from SUGAR CANE :)


Abracos

Ray

Jennifer Souza said...

Hey Ray-
I could also add that in general, the USA has the worst food of anywhere I've been in the world- Europe, Latin America, and the Near East. Sure, you can find wonderful food in the USA (SF Bay area) and you can find awful food in other countries, but living someplace where people still cook- and know HOW to cook- is a blessing.

The food in Brazil is much healthier and better tasting. We hope to start building our house by December.....and that's when I'll plan the area for my tomatoes. :-) Because tomatoes are coming up short.

Anonymous said...

HAHA one thing is for sure...Mc Donalds is serving straight shit in every country of the world.

Id never eat there unless Im drunk or Ive lost my mind :D

But Ive realized while trying it in Brazil once that the beef is really different from what it is in Europe.

Cant really remember what it was like in the US but I better keep my handy of that junk food =)

Cris Mic said...

I did not have idea of mcdonalds in other countries except Brazil & US. Last year when I went to Brazil on business tour, then I noticed the different taste of McDonald’s burger there and it was not yummy too. US McDonalds are better in serving quality than Brazil, I think.

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