McDonald's will open its first vegetarian-only restaurants in India next year to cater for pilgrims to sacred sites.
Burgers and fries have proved a winning formula since the McDonald brothers created their eponymous fast food franchise in 1955.
But now meat will be struck from the menu for the first time in an attempt to woo devout diners at two Indian pilgrimage sites.
The vegetarian restaurants will open next year as part of a wider expansion strategy in the country, where the chain has only 271 branches.
The first will open in Katra, close to the hill shrine of Vaishno Devi, which welcomes hundreds of thousands of pilgrims a year. It will be followed by a restaurant in Amritsar, home to the Golden Temple, the spiritual centre of the Sikh faith.
McDonald’s India is also ready to expand its vegetarian offering throughout the country as it seeks to double the number of restaurants in the next three years.
It has already altered its menu to reflect the tastes of Hindus, who eschew beef and revere cows. Vegetarian patties are served alongside more traditional fare such as chicken burgers and account for half of overall sales.
But the new sites will offer a larger meat-free range. “There is a big opportunity for vegetarian restaurants as many Indians are vegetarian,” said Rajesh Kumar Maini, a spokesman for the company in northern India.
“At the moment, India is still a very small market we just have 271 restaurants in India and across the world we have nearly 33,000. But when you look at the potential of the country, it is one of the top priority countries and we are laying the groundwork for capturing the market.”
It is not the first time the American franchise has altered its menu to adapt to changing demand. The chain first added salads in 1987 and has developed a range of coffees and smoothies in recent years.
Its concessions to the Indian market echo similar moves by sandwich chain Subway, which has opened its first vegetarian restaurant on a university campus. Domino’s also has a raft of vegetarian-only pizza outlets in the country.