Our quest to chart the fast food development of all the countries we develop continue. Kazakhstan is up.
We’re getting good at this now and easily able to offer a categorisation. Western fast food is reasonably available in Almaty, Kazakhstan’s biggest city, and it’s priced in such a way that it’s neither exorbitantly expensive, nor the cheapest thing on offer. So Kazakhstan is a category three: Western fast food is available in most towns or cities and is an aspirational brand for the middle classes (with a price tag to match).
But Ronald’s not about
What is more noteworthy about Kazakhstan is that it has no McDonald’s. In fact it is the largest country in the world with this honour. KFC is the most prevalent, Burger King is popular, but there are no golden arches in sight (though there is talk of McDonalds on the horizon).
The best discussion of why there’s no McDees comes from an wonderfully titled blog: One Steppe at a Time. Apparently there is a popular claim that McDonald’s can’t source local beef that meets its quality standards. One Steppe doesn’t buy that, and neither do I. I’ve been to plenty of countries with poorer meat that still produce Big Macs.
A more plausible explanation is that the fragility of Kazakhstan’s logistics network doesn’t support the regular delivery of goods that McDonald’s franchises require. It’s tough to keep the country connected because its main population centres at its borders and there is a vast impassable desert in the middle where a highway should go. Plus, the main transport infrastructure is north-south, the historic route of Russian invasion, whereas the main need to move goods is east-west.
I buy the logistics argument but it better explains why McDonald’s isn’t everywhere, not why they haven’t started up in Almaty, a reasonably large and very cosmopolitan city. For now I will credit Kazakh’s superior taste in mass produced burgers. Give me a whopper over a big mac any day.