In what could be considered a whopper of a fast-food news item, Burger King has announced that it is pulling out of Israel. (I know, I should be shot for that pun.) According to reports, the chain is closing its 55 outlets as of this August. The BK restaurants will be closed and reopened as Burger Ranches, which is a competing chain that is owned – interestingly – by the same people, Ograd Holdings, who own the Burger King franchise.
Eli and Yuval Ograd, the brothers who own both chains, said Israelis prefer the taste of Burger Ranch to Burger King. Burger Ranch has been around since the seventies, with about 52 locations currently, while Burger King only arrived in Israel about 20 years ago. Sayeth the brothers: “We were very excited to learn that, for many Israelis, Burger Ranch is not just a hamburger, sauces and vegetables, but is also large bites of nostalgia. And for this, credit goes to the chain’s founders, who nurtured this brand with so much talent over so many years.”
None of the media reports I’ve seen have gone beyond that rationale, which I can tell you smells like total bullshit from all the way over here in Canada. There’s definitely more of a story here – from the tone of their excuse, it wouldn’t be a surprise if Burger King decided to terminate the Ograds’ franchise license for some transgression or another. Like, how about, I don’t know… operating a competing burger chain?!?!
Israel has proven to be a poor market for Western chains. Starbuck’s, Wendy’s and Dunkin Donuts have all flopped in the country. McDonald’s, however, continues to soldier along, opening more than 130 stores since 1993. (Maybe Mickey D’s does something silly like insist its franchisees don’t compete against themselves?) And yes, most of the burger chains are kosher.
It’s interesting that the news comes just days after Israel was officially accepted into the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development. Israel gets to now officially be considered a developed nation, although you’d almost think having a strong fast-food market should be a prerequisite for that.
In any event, it hasn’t been a good year for American fast-food chains and their international expansions. McDonald’s pulled out of Iceland in October, thereby causing the current volcanic instability (just kidding) while Wendy’s bailed on Japan back in December. And here we thought there was no stopping the almighty fast-food monoliths!