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Why is US fastfood chain so boring while in US?

I got a question, how come the fastfood chain in US so boring? The reason I ask this is that US chain that are located in other country got so many more different kind of food it is not funny.

For example, in Hong Kong, their MacDonald serve a LOT more than just same old burger and fries and while Pizza Hut there serve many kind of different pizza and pasta. They actually serve seafood pizza that taste very good and their seafood pasta blow anything they serve in Olive Garden out of the water. While in US, Pizza is reduce to a extreme fastfood fair with only processed meat on the menu. Why is that?

The reason I ask is that my brother just come back from his trip from HK and he told me about the wonderful pizza he had at pizza hut. That got me thinking... the pizza making process for chain restaurant is around the same in the world, so just being in HK doesn't made the pizza better, it is the ingredient that made it good. People also love shrimp in US, then how come I almost never notice it on a pizza menu...

I mean just look at the hk pizza hut link... things look so good already


Another thing was that before I from to US from HK 15 years or so ago, I loved pizza hut pasta and when I see the pizza hut in US I was shock to see all they got is pizza back then and its wasn't until recent years they start selling pasta...

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  1. I'm not sure why, but to be honest, I wouldn't even try that kind of Pasta from a Pizza Hut. Maybe it is a reputation or way of thinking about the restaurant that keeps them from trying it here? Pizza Hut to me is just fast food junk and if there Pizza tastes that bad IMO, why would I want to try anything else?

    1. Because the American public likes it that way and the ingredients limit us. Hong Kong is a (relatively) small market and I'm guessing it's easier from both the market size and geography perspectives to get the shrimp/seafood they need. I think McDonald's or another burger chain in France had a limited time foie gras burger and that speaks to local tastes and supply.

      By the way, Pizza Hut pastas (and wings) are fairly good. Sure, it's better if you make it at home, but for a quickie meal for a crowd, it's a safe/reliable bet.

      12 Replies
      1. re: ediblover

        Wow, no... Pizza Hut pasta really, really sucks - sauce is way too sweet, pasta is overcooked. Wings are the worst in the area by far - very strange flavor combinations. Of course, this could just be the local outlet, but any chain that has that much deviation in any single place couldn't be very good overall.

        American fast food chains produce crap because they don't have to produce anything else. Americans eat crap, the corporate bosses know this, they have absolutely no incentive to produce anything else. When they go overseas, they have to react to a different marketplace - and yes indeed, it is often a market with more sophisticated and varied palates. 25-30 years ago, the first international BK's, McD's, DQ's and KFC's tried selling the same old American shit in Germany, France and England. They sold their stuff outside of US military bases to guarantee sales. But as soon as they moved to downtown Frankfurt, their sales went poof. Businesswise, they aren't dumb - they learned their lessons and decided to meet the demands of the marketplace.

        Real 'Mericans eat beef and potatoes - ok, some water and filler in their hot dogs and ammoniated splooge in their ground meat. Mostly, the food has to be prepared in a factory and have plenty of salt, sugar, and fats. We, especially we here at Chowhound, like to think that the American palate and marketplace is becoming more sophisticated. Many more people today will eat strange foods like offal and try new combinations than over the last 50 years of American food by Kraft and General Foods. But there are plenty of 'Mericans that still won't eat any fish at all, never mind something really exotic, like lamb. And look at the number of posts even here on Chowhound, by people who simply "don't like vegetables". As sophisticated as we think we're getting, the marketplace for the lowest common denominator - the meat and potato eaters - is still the predominant food market in the US. As long as that's true, the fast food chains have absolutely no incentive to make a better product or a more varied menu. In the middle of this recession, McDonald's is making record profit selling grilled to death ammoniated splooge in a bun. I guess that's better than selling e. coli.

          1. re: applehome

            You make it sound as if foreign markets have vastly different menus when they don't. Unless you go to places like India, you're going to find the same classic fast food menu items everywhere. Many fast food companies are seeing growth these days from foreign markets. A place like KFC is a Christmas tradition in Japan. McDonald's plans to build their biggest store yet for the next Olympics. So... Seems to me that fast food places are doing fine overseas. Because, that's what the $ says.

            Going back to India, they got a problem with beef, so places like McDonald's adjust their menu. To a large extend, fast food places do make plenty of adjustments and accommodations. In the U.S. this is seen often not in the food, but in buildings/exteriors where they adjust to the look of the community.

            As for McDonald's not having to change or anything (food wise)... The McCafe, the Angus burgers, the Fruit and Walnut salad, Wraps, Apple dippers and others all came in the last decade or so. Dominoe had their relaunch campaign a few years ago. Wendy's has made some changes for the better. So... Despite what you've said, fast food companies have made plenty of changes for the better lately.

            1. re: ediblover

              I would hardly call the "McCafe" a change for the better...

              Fast food companies seem to be coming out with a wider variety of food that they can market as being either healthy or higher quality, but any improvement seems to be relative to the crud they were serving before (crud which is, incidentally, still on the menu).

              Brewing a stronger version of the same old stale, preservative-laden coffee, and serving it with a variety of sugar syrups, is hardly progress. While I would agree that adding salads to the menu is an improvement, it does not really represent a more adventurous approach. It just means that they are now trying to expand from appealing to people who like bland, unhealthy food to people who like bland, healthy food.

              1. re: BananaBirkLarsen

                the chicken ceasar salad has more calories than a bigmac...

                1. re: kpaxonite

                  This is what's wrong.

                  McDonald's chicken Caesar salad with crispy (intentionally picked the bad one) chicken is listed at 350 calories. This doesn't include dressing which has variable. But for those curious, the full packet of Newman's comes to 190 calories.

                  A Big Mac comes in at 540 calories.

                  When I say "this is what's wrong," I don't mean the calorie count. I mean the completely blatant attempt by many to make fast food look bad as possible, when they're not. In this case, even at its worst, the Caesar is EQUAL to a Big Mac in calories. Skip the chicken and dressing and you're looking at 90 calories. Being more realistic, a health conscious person is going to get the grilled chicken and use some of the dressing, which would put the count at about 250 calories.

                  Fast food ain't great. But, it ain't the poison/garbage that so many make it out to be. Yes, it can be pretty bad. Still, we can/should make valid criticisms of it, rather than lie or stretch the truth.

                  1. re: ediblover

                    By your own account, one has to manipulate fast food to get it anywhere near the healthy zone. As served, it's toxic: too much fat, too much sodium, too many calories. (I have to confess to allowing myself a yearly Big Mac Attack -- I eat 3 bites of the burger, a few fries, a few sips of Coke, and the rest goes in the trash -- satisfies my urge.)

                    1. re: pikawicca

                      Absolutely. It *is* toxic, poisonous garbage...and fairly addicting. I had a McD's breakfast today. Wow, it was tasty trash food! I will need to fight the urge to do it again soon. The fat content alone kept me full until well after lunch time....which was good -as that breakfast had more fat and calories than my usual breakfast and lunch (and part of dinner) has altogether.

                      1. re: pikawicca

                        It's the chemicals and preservatives that freak me out. There are a lot of foods I will happily eat that are positively soaked in fat, sodium and calories. But I would rather eat a greasy burger made from fresh, real meat, topped with un-processed cheese etc.

                        I dunno. In some ways I get where ediblover is coming from. I think that a lot of people spend so much time counting calories that they forget about the good nutrients that can be found in even the fattiest, calorie-laden foods. I think it's become sort of trendy to bash fast food restaurants. It seems like a lot of people do this because it makes them feel better about the crap they eat. Sometimes it even becomes a sort of moral judgement on those who eat a lot of fast food, which creeps me out nearly as much as the food itself.

                        That said, there is very little fast food that I like. As I said, the thought of all those chemicals freaks me out. I don't like it when the grill marks on my chicken look painted-on. And, worst of all, most fast food tastes bland. I don't mind eating something that is that bad for me, but I damn well want it to taste good.

                        1. re: pikawicca

                          Uh... Manipulate? The basic salad has 90 calories and you can order that as is. So, asking for a slightly modified order that's actually prepared that way and is listed as an option by the corporate office is manipulation?

                          As served, it can be 90 calories. As served, it can be 200-something calories. It comes with a packet of dressing - You choose how much to put on.

                          Well, I'll say this certainly adds to my claim that so many are willing to distort fast food.

            2. Because they have to appeal to the common demoninator of their target markets and this usually excludes any 'out there' food items. Uniformity in well presented mediocrity is the name of the game here. This is how CHIPOTLE rose to the top.

              1. I've definitely noticed some menu differences in fast food chains at different locations. I went to a McDonald's in Germany that had cherry milkshakes (I wish they had those here.), The biggest thing I noticed was years ago, when a fast food place (don't remember which) in Maine had lobster sandwiches and stuff.

                6 Replies
                1. re: kathleen221

                  Go to one in France - they have wine!

                  So far I've managed to avoid visiting any of these American "colonies" when overseas, though I came awfully close in HK just because I wanted the cardboard clamshell box for a souvenir. We're always too busy chowing down on the local stuff to bother.

                  On American taste, though, here's a sad, true story: my mom and I were visiting my sister's family when her husband was stationed near Brindisi, and he had booked all of us on a bus tour of Rome. At that time there was a convent there whose nuns were fabulous cooks, and they'd turned the refectory into a private, reservations-only prix fixe restaurant, with two seatings per night. Mom and I had both read about this place, and were delighted to learn that our group had reservations for our first night there! Most of the other Americans seemed strangely lacking in enthusiasm … then, at around 3:00 that afternoon, came word that someone had found a CHINESE restaurant! Glumness turned to joy and laughter all around us as Mom, sister and I looked aghast at each other. By a vote of everybody else to none (as we didn't get a vote) the reservations with the sisters was cancelled and everyone else, including my brother-in-law and their two boys, went off to have chop suey or whatever. The three of us went across the street and found some cold panini, since the grilling machine had been dismantled for the day …

                    1. re: kathleen221

                      All except my panino. It was egg and spinach, and I was curious to see how that would be cold. It was delicious, as was almost everything we ate after that. Bro-in-law and the boys subsisted almost entirely on Cokes and sandwiches (prosciutto e formaggio, of course), he scowling at his wife as she joined Mom and me in whatever disgusting "foreign" messes we were eating. Turns out "hating Italian food except for pizza" was all but universal among the USAF contingent …

                      1. re: Will Owen

                        Well, gee, why bother going to a foreign country if you have no interest in even trying the cuisine? I'm not a particularly adventurous eater, but I figure if I try something and really don't like it, I can grab a snack later.

                        And I want a prosciutto e formaggio panino. Even though it's just a fancy name for grilled ham and cheese. =)

                        1. re: kathleen221

                          Coming back to this a *ahem!* little bit later: in all fairness I have to point out that few if any of those people were in Italy because they wanted to be. If you're a military person you go where you're ordered to, and quite frankly your typical enlisted person is the sort who wants food he's familiar with at all times. If the restaurants in Italy offered nothing but spaghetti and meatballs, pizza, lasagna and other Americanized red-sauce stuff those people would have been much happier. On my last night in Italy my brother-in-law took us all out to the one restaurant that people from the base really liked: a pizza place in Matera! Yes, they did have a proper wood-fired giant beehive oven, but the menu (available in both Italian and English versions) was remarkably similar to what you'd see over here.

                  1. You can put shrimp (or any other "fancy") topping on a chain pizza, but it's still chain pizza; in other words, dreck.

                    1. Some restaurant chains do adapt their food to other cultures. Pizza Hut is pretty impressive - locally I can get takoyaki pizza (squid and mayonaise), kimchi beef pizza, red bean and cheese pizza, seafood pizza with white sauce, and a variety of other interesting flavours, as well as the ubiquitous corn on pizza. McDonalds sells burgers where instead of the bun you have sticky rice patties, KFC doesn't sell coleslaw or potato salad, but does have mashed potatoes and tomato sauce, and corn chowder is a standard side dish at Burger King. A friend of mine raves about the spicy KFC in Malaysia. Other places have the exact same food no matter where you go - Subway here is identical to one in the US. On the down side, I can't get those disturbing green mint shakes for St Patrick's day from McDonalds, although I can get matcha lattes.

                      In the US, fast food is firmly marketed at the median eater, and it's strength is its consistency, cheapness, large quantities of enticing fat and salt, and lack of challenges to the eater.

                      You can see this at a lot of chain restaurants (not just fast food) when it comes to their 'international' cuisine, where they take a basic food item from another culture, take away most of the spiciness and uniqueness of the flavour, and adapt it so it's just very slightly off from local tastes and not at all threatening.

                      In foreign markets US chains are more of a novelty. If I go to somewhere like McDonalds or Chilis or TGIF or Pizza Hut, I will pay appreciably more than I would for a meal of comparable quality and formality in the local cuisine (usually about double). But to really break the market, they've got to serve something the locals can actually stand, hence the tweaking of the recipes.

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: tastesgoodwhatisit

                        I've had the same experience with Subway being pretty consistent. My husband and I were friendly with the former manager at the Subway near our house, and when we travelled, we'd bring her back menus or napkins from Subways in Germany or London or whatnot. The menu seemed to be a little more limited; for example, the sandwich would come with standard vegetables, and you had to ask if you wanted something different.

                      2. they alter the menu to fit to local tastes to make more money.

                        1. As others have said, availability and local tastes drive this. Also, the economy

                          There's lots of shrimp pizza .... which is great ... in Guatemala a country hugged by two oceans. There are also tropical smoothies at places like McDonald;s which is like the local liquados. Tropical ingredients also influence other items such as passionfruit cheesecake and coconut pies at Mcdonalds.

                          Most of the fast food chains serve the local breakfast with beans, longaniza, plantanos and tortillas.

                          Oddly enough, McDonalds is being credited for introducing a coffee culture in Guatemala, a country that pretty much exported anything good and drank instant Nescafe. Compared to that, McDonalds coffee is ambrosia.

                          Taco Bell was the only chain that had an identical menu to the US. They did cave recently and added an item that appealed to local tastes., though I'm forgetting what that was.

                          Fast food is expensive in other countries ... and is getting that way in the US. People are unlikely to spend the same money for a single burger as they would pay for a three-course lunch. So the fast food chains have to offer stuff to draw locals in.

                          Why not put some of this stuff in the US? I'm sure these companies do focus groups to see what would appeal to tthe general public. I've just noticed the fruit smoothies have made it recently to the US ... but smoothies were already an accepted and popular drink.

                          The one thing I never understood was why not one single US chain in Guatemala offered an egg on a burger in Guatemala. That is common at any restaurant or local burger chain. With McDonald's I can sort of understand it as they have always been pissy about serving anthing that smacked of breakfast outside of the approved hours. Why no other chain has not done this ... dunno.

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: rworange

                            They do it in Hong Kong................... or at least they used to. 9AM McD's at Star Ferry area, Kowloon, circa 1980. Tried to order something like an egg mcmuffin and wound up with a burger with a fried egg on it. Pretty good. I can't remember if they served this all day or not but I think they did.

                            In general I'd say that these overseas chain businesses are usually franchised with local business people who are given some flexibility in creating menu items that will sell in their markets. It just makes sense.

                          2. Because you're in America.

                            Some Japanese person is probably posting on some Tokyo board asking "Why are Japanese fast food chains so boring while in Japan??"

                            2 Replies
                            1. re: ipsedixit

                              Try the same chains in Canada, you will be thankful with what you have in the States;)

                              1. re: callitasicit

                                Ahhh, Tim Horton's! You are so correct!

                            2. 56$ for a garden chicken salad? The menu better be good.

                              3 Replies
                              1. re: shecrab

                                I couldn't find the menu on that link, but I would presume that we are talking about 56 HONG KONG dollars, which translates to $7.19 in US dollars. ;o))))))))

                                1. re: shecrab

                                  yes, mcds is a super high end restaurant in HK with linen tablecloths and waiters hence the price


                                  1. re: kpaxonite

                                    The McDonalds on "the Champs" has frog legs on their burgers!

                                2. I think chains are given some level of freedom overseas to repackage some offerings and/or are encouraged to come up with new interesting things to cater to local markets and needs, but will never make it over to the USA. You see this all the time with McDonalds in Japan, Taiwan, or Hong Kong, same with KFC (I read that Portugese egg tart in KFC Taiwan is excellent, as a result of the Portugese egg tart craze from Macau). I actually liked the iced lemon tea at McDonald's HK when I was a lot younger, and their soft serve vanilla. But that flavor is entirely lost over here.

                                  The other thing is that some of these chains overseas are controlled by a conglomerate or investor group, so one would have to go through them to open up a franchise, which have their own quality control standards and procedures. This is particuarly true for example, in Taipei when someone wants to import a Japanese chain (e.g. a buffet, or Mister Donut Japan)...in some cases the investor group that controls these franchises also run and/or supply to hotels.

                                  I'm not going to say KFC Hong Kong is superior to KFC USA, but they both certainly taste different (all because of the chickens). Part of it is psychological and who we are.

                                    1. Fast food chains in America cater to American fast food tastes, just as fast food chains in other countries cater to local tastes. No mystery here.

                                      1. Glad someone explained those were HK dollars on that menu. I about had kittens.