No sooner than a burger chain comes to set up operations in India do they start tweaking their formula. Conventional wisdom is that beef cannot be served in a patty here, so the great majority of burger chains, who naturally do not want to fall foul of local norms, are happy to dispense with the highest selling meat in their home country. A few of them hastily add on a mutton burger or two and overnight, a whole range of vegetarian options becomes operational. Needless to say, all of them have been conceptualized in India for the local market. The other part of the menu that is invariably subjected to violent change is the spice level. Usually, it is the sauce that gets the chilli treatment, in the haste to cater to the Indian palate – and incidentally to the huge volume of customers as well.
However, there are a few corners that are invariably cut. The first one is the patty for vegetarians. It is usually a mush of grated vegetables bound together with mashed potatoes. The second is indiscriminate Indianizing. Dousing tomato sauce with chilli powder just to ramp up the spice factor is an oft used trick.
Wendy’s, the latest burger chain to enter India, has done its homework meticulously. Its best vegetarian offering has fried potatoes in it, modelled closely on the Aloo Tuk recipe, that is to say, par-boiled, partially smashed and fried with the skin on. The other winner is the Ghost Chilli Chicken Burger. Actual morsels of chicken are used, and the sauce is made of actual Bhut Jholokia chillies, whose spiciness is somewhat akin to an electrical current!
Wendy’s service is a step up from a quick service restaurant. It is called fast casual table service. And the crockery is china – no plastic here!