Baghdad Sees Rise in Restaurants Inspired by US Chains

New American-style chains (and knock-offs of American chains) are gaining in popularity among consumers in Iraq
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What’s the hot new flavor that’s sweeping the nation? If the nation you’re talking about is Iraq, then American-style restaurants are shaping up to be the latest trend alert. According to an interesting new report, the average Baghdad citizen is craving hot dogs and fried chicken, and American-style restaurants are cropping up to meet that rising demand.

The Huffington Post reports that the rise in American-style fast food joints has multiple causes, ranging from a simple desire for something new to more deep-seated sociological implications:


A wave of new American-style restaurants is spreading across the Iraqi capital, enticing customers hungry for alternatives to traditional offerings like lamb kebabs and fire-roasted carp.

The fad is a sign that Iraqis, saddled with violence for years and still experiencing almost daily bombings and shootings, are prepared to move on and embrace ordinary pleasures – like stuffing their faces with pizza.


The most interesting thing about this trend is that, unlike similar growth in Asia, this uptick in American-style fast food cuisine isn’t primarily driven by Western multinational franchise invaders swooping in to build their brands. The report notes that Yum Brands has no plans to expand in Iraq after shutting down their military base outposts last year; meanwhile Subway (currently known to be focusing its Middle Eastern growth in Kuwait and the UAE) did not respond to questioning. Instead, growth is coming from within the Middle East itself between entrepreneurs and relatively local chains:


The traditional Arabic restaurants long popular here now find themselves competing against foreign-sounding rivals such as Florida Fried Chicken, Mr. Potato, Pizza Boat and Burger Friends. There is even a blatant KFC knockoff called KFG, which owner Zaid Sadiq insists stands for Kentucky Family Group.


One of Mansour's newest additions is Burger Joint, a slick shop serving up respectable burgers and milkshakes to a soundtrack that includes Frank Sinatra. It is the creation of VQ Investment Group, a firm with operations in Iraq and the United Arab Emirates. […] The group also runs the Iraq franchises of Pizza Pizza, a Turkish chain, and is planning to launch a new hot submarine sandwich brand called Subz.


Is everyone excited about this new development? Of course not: wherever there’s an upswing in fast food, a denouncement of obesity and poor health won’t be far behind. This is just as true in Iraq as it would be anywhere else. But there is a location-based difference: in Baghdad, even otherwise wary physicians are conceding that the mental benefits of a carefree casual meal could perhaps outweigh the physical health risks:


"The opening of these American-style restaurants ... will make Iraqis, especially children, fatter," said Dr. Sarmad Hamid, a physician at a Baghdad government hospital. But even he acknowledged that the new eateries aren't all bad.

"People might benefit psychologically by sitting down in a quiet, clean and relatively fancy place with their families, away from the usual chaos in Iraqi cities," he said.


If everyone in Baghdad switched over to eating nothing but Kentucky Fried Chicken Family Group all the time, there might be a problem. But in the meantime, Baghdad citizens seem to be happy just adding a little multicultural spice (and a fresh take on mindless comfort food) to their daily lunchtime lineups.


[SOURCE: Huffington Post]

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