Fast food development: Venezuela

This post continues our project to track the fast food development of the nations we travel in, as a proxy for their overall development. You can find more detail about our original framework here.

We only had four days in Venezuela so our assessment may not have the scientific rigor you can expect from us in other countries. But, and this is a big call, we’re prepared to categories Venezuela as stage 3.

Venezuela: Western fast food is available in most towns or cities and is an aspirational brand for the middle classes.

That’s because:

  • We saw a smattering of McDonald’s in Maracaibo (Venezuela’s second largest city) and also some representation from Burger King. This was backed up by McDonald’s in Coro, a small town we visited, backed up by a healthy amount of advertising.
  • The prices, as advertised, show McDonald’s as just slightly more expensive than a meal in a Venezuelan restaurant, of which, admittedly, there aren’t many. The guy who took us sandboarding advised that McDonalds was accessible for ‘normal’ Venezuelans, although of course it’s never clear what normal is. If the definition is up for debate, though, it can’t be stage 4.

Some observations:

  • There’s a rich irony that in a country which is so staunchly anti-American, there’s a healthy appetite for America’s cultural exports.
  • Amidst all its turmoil, it’s remarkable that Venezuela is a stage ahead of Colombia (just a stage 2). We can’t explain why this is, but guess that McDs and others might have settled in in safer, and more prosperous times. We know these existed because an old guide book we read in our Coro hostel said, as of 1999, Venezuela was the safest and most accessible country in Latin America.
  • And finally a hypothesis: Advertising for fast food that prominently displays pricing indicates a country is at stage 3, or at least heading that way. McDonalds in Venezuela advertises prices. McDonalds in Colombia does not. Our hypothesis is basically that McDonalds in Venezuela is inviting price conscious consumers, but Colombia is just selling a brand.

As always we’re grateful for your thoughts, and contributions to our dataset.

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