Beyond Borders — How Successful Franchises Thrive in Diverse Markets Successful franchises can adapt and deliver their products and services in any corner of the world.

By Entrepreneur Staff

Key Takeaways

  • Adaptability is Crucial: Whether it's McDonald's adjusting its menu to suit local tastes in India, Egypt, or Japan, or understanding regional preferences even within the United States, franchises that succeed globally recognize the importance of tailoring their offerings.
  • The Brand isn't Just the Product: While products might differ across countries, the underlying brand promise should remain consistent.
  • Consistency in Brand Promise: Consistency in brand promise — ensuring a familiar experience from one outlet to another — is integral for a franchise's success.
  • Franchising Requires a System: Scaling a business, especially in the realm of franchising, needs more than luck. Scalability requires a comprehensive and robust system, a lesson integral to those looking to make their mark in the world of franchising.

The following excerpt is from franchise expert Mark Siebert's book The Multiplier Model. Buy it now.

I have been fortunate enough to be able to travel the world extensively. I have been to every state in the U.S., almost every province in Canada and dozens of other countries.

When I travel abroad, one way to judge how "Western" an economy is involves looking at how many international franchises you see on the street. When I tell people I am a franchise consultant, they often lament how these companies rob some countries of their culture. And while I love to immerse myself in the local culture of any country I visit, I never feel any regret at the global success of franchising because successful franchises can adapt and deliver their products and services across a wide range of customers.

Related: Considering franchise ownership? Get started now and take this quiz to find your personalized list of franchises that match your lifestyle, interests and budget.

International franchises can (and should) adapt to their local customers

The reason franchises thrive in these cultures is that they do a better job of meeting their customers' needs than the businesses they supplanted. They bought their products more efficiently and passed those savings along. They experimented with different products to find out which ones the consumer liked best. And, most of all, they provided the customer with a consistent brand experience from one market to the next. They delivered on their brand's promise. The systems they developed and adapted to the local market led to their success.

McDonald's is an international example of adaptability

One of the things I enjoy when traveling abroad is visiting McDonald's to see how they have adapted to the market. When visiting McDonald's in other countries, the ingredients used in their products may be slightly different from market to market. Beef, for example, will be locally sourced, and the diet of the cows (grass vs. grain-fed) influences things like marbling and flavor. The same can be said for McDonald's potatoes, where different local growing conditions will produce a slightly different potato (or may even require a different type of potato altogether)—just like growing conditions can affect the grapes that are used for making wine.

Related: Why Marketing Your Franchise Matters

Some of the things you may find at McDonald's around the world that you likely will not find in the States include:

  • Australia—Gourmet Angus Truffle & Cheese
  • Brazil—Pão de Queijo (cheese bread)
  • Canada—Poutine; McLobster (lobster roll)
  • Chile—Guacamole 2 Carnes (double beef with guacamole); Empanadas Con Queso (empanadas with cheese)
  • China—Taro Pie; Mashed Potato Burger (burger topped with bacon and mashed potatoes); Bacon, Macaroni, and Cheese Toastie; Black and White Burgers (twin burgers with white and black buns)
  • Costa Rica—McPinto Deluxe (breakfast meal with gallo pinto, a traditional beans and rice dish)
  • Egypt—McFalafel (vegan falafel wrap)
  • Finland—Chili Cheese Tops (fried dough stuffed with chilies and cheese)
  • France—Macarons
  • Germany—McNürnburger (made with bratwurst); Beer
  • Greece—Greek Mac (burger in pita bread)
  • Hong Kong—Rice Fantastic (burger with rice patties instead of buns)
  • India—McCurry Pan; BigSpicy Paneer Wrap; Maharaja Mac (chicken burger); McAloo Tikki (veggie burger)
  • Italy—Spinach and Parmesan Nuggets; Sweety Con Nutella
  • Japan—Ebi Filet-O Shrimp Burger; Melon McFloat; McChoco Potato (fries with chocolate sauce); Shaka Shaka Chicken (fried chicken patty with a spice packet); Idaho Burger (burger with bacon and a hash brown patty); Gracoro Burger (macaroni patty, shrimp, and white sauce)
  • Korea—Shrimp Beef Burger (beef patty plus shrimp patty)
  • Lithuania—Aštrus surio gabaleliai (fried spicy cheese with Chapala hot peppers in a crispy crust)
  • Malaysia—Prosperity Burger (long beef or chicken patty with a black pepper sauce); Bubur Ayam McD (a local rice por- ridge)
  • Mexico—McMolletes (local version of the McMuffin, with refried beans and pico de gallo)
  • Middle East—McArabia (grilled chicken in pita bread)
  • Netherlands—McKroket (fried beef and cheese burger)
  • Norway—McLaks (salmon burger)
  • Philippines—Chicken McDo With McSpaghetti (fried chicken leg with spaghetti and meat sauce)
  • Poland—Cordon Bleu Burger (beef patty, chicken patty, and bacon)
  • Singapore—Chicken SingaPorridge (congee with fried chicken strips)
  • Spain—Gazpacho
  • Sweden—McPlant Burger (McDonald's is testing its first plant-based burger here)
  • Turkey—McTurco (kebab meat in a pita)
  • United Kingdom—Bacon Roll; Mozzarella Dippers
  • Uruguay—Pancake Helado (pancake stuffed with dulce de leche and topped with vanilla ice cream)
  • Venezuela—Empanadas
  • And the list goes on.

Even within the United States, there are differences in regional offerings:

  • Alaska features the McKinley Mac, an even Bigger Mac with two quarter-pound beef patties.
  • In some southern states, you can get biscuits and gravy.
  • The McLobster, mentioned above, is available in New England in the summer.
  • Hawaii features the Peach Mango Pie and also offers Spam for those who want to partake at breakfast.
  • And bratwurst has been offered in some locations in Wisconsin.

Related: These Are the Top 200 Global Franchise Brands in 2023

The brand is not the product

And while the McDonald's case study holds some valuable lessons for those looking to adapt their concepts to foreign markets, there is perhaps a much more profound lesson underlying these product offerings: The brand is not the product.

No one ever questions the consistency of the brand because McDonald's takes such care in selecting suppliers and preparing their products. But more important, McDonald's knows that its brand is more than its food. McDonald's, which is known for its hamburgers, does not sell beef (or pork, for that matter) in its 350 locations in India (even though some Indian states allow it), where about 50 percent of the menu is vegetarian. Yet the McDonald's brand remains one of the strongest in the world (and in India) despite these product line differences.

What exactly is the brand and the brand promise?

Over the years, I have heard stories of Ray Kroc's visits to his franchisees. He would often start by patrolling the parking lot, picking up each piece of litter and unceremoniously piling it on the counter while he waited for the franchisee to appear for his inevitable rebuke. His message: McDonald's core values. were quality, service, cleanliness and value. And no franchisee had better forget it.

Ultimately, it's not the product, the design, or the name. The brand is the promise of a consistent experience from one Money Machine to the next. And you need to deliver on that promise if you want the continued business that will allow your machine to grow.

Related: Find Out Which Brands Have Ranked on the Franchise 500 for Longest, Earning a Spot In our New 'Hall of Fame'

Get started with The Multiplier Model

Going from small business to successful startup to scalable growth takes more than just good luck. It takes a system. Over the last 34 years, franchising consultant and growth expert Mark Siebert has been sought out by more than 70,000 executives looking to expand their companies. Out of those 70,000, only 5,000 had the right systems in place to go from successful to scalable. In The Multiplier Model, Siebert discusses the factors that determine if an entrepreneur is ready to scale their venture — and the best ways to get started. Read more.

Entrepreneur Staff

Entrepreneur Staff


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