Wow! McDonald’s Surprising Twist for Investors

With nearly 33,000 stores worldwide, McDonald’s (NYSE:MCD) has proven it knows how to take a multinational brand and localize it. McDonald’s has seen success customizing its menu in places like France and China. Now it’s turning its attention to India — with a surprising twist.

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India and McDonald’s are unlikely bedfellows. Cows are sacred to Hindus, which account for over 80 percent of the population, and Muslims — who don’t eat pork — account for another 13.4 percent. Between 20 to 42 percent of India’s population is vegetarian. Despite this, McDonald’s has 271 restaurants in India with a menu that is already 50 percent vegetarian. The top seller? The McAloo Tikki burger, which uses a spicy, fried-potato patty instead of meat. And instead of a Big Mac, McDonald’s in India offers a Maharaja Mac which uses chicken.

But there’s precedent for success. Chipotle (NYSE:CMG) has successfully integrated quick serve food and vegetarian meals in America. Offering something for everyone has worked well for the Mexican grill, garnering good reputation from typically underserved vegetarians.

McDonald’s will open its first vegetarian-only location next year near the Golden Temple, a Sikh pilgrimage site in northern India, and after that another one near the Hindu pilgrimage site Vaishno Devi. If McDonald’s can make vegetarian fast food work, it could see explosive growth of its low-cost offerings among India’s 250-480 million vegetarians. Ronald McDonald may be on his first vegetarian pilgrimage, and investors may soon be “Lovin’ It.”

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