A lot of buzz was created among the food lovers in Bangladesh when Burger King opened their first outlet in the city a few days ago. Long lines formed outside the outlets and people were genuinely excited to finally taste the burgers they had heard so much about but hadn’t gotten to taste. However, once the lines got inside and people got a taste of their Whoopers, there was an interesting reaction.

Most people, surprisingly, seemed unsatisfied with the burgers and commented that local burgers from the likes of Takeout and Madchef were much better. While it’s great that our local brands can surpass an international giant like Burger King, one must wonder why things turned out the way they did.

madamlucy

Source: thegourmetdiary.com

Burgers have been around in Bangladesh for a while. While many lesser known fast food shops made burgers a commonly seen thing in Bangladesh, it probably wasn’t until KFC brought the Zinger Burger that burgers started developing a ‘signature’ identity in Bangladesh. Some others came up with popular burgers but the hype around burgers reached hitherto unknown levels with the advent of Madchef and Takeout, two brands that took the idea of ‘gourmet burgers’ to the next level in Bangladesh. All of a sudden, burgers weren’t just grouped as ‘Zinger’ burgers or ‘Beef Burgers’, they had names like ‘Madame Lucy’ and ‘Beef Cheese Delight’. If you need a clearer idea of their success, then consider how both shops recently moved to bigger outlets for their Dhanmondi branch very recently and now even the new outlets don’t seem big enough.

So what did these two brands do to their burgers that nobody else, Burger King included, seems to be able to do?

They simply knew what our tongues were used to.

The Indian Subcontinent has a unique preference for ‘jhol’ or gravy. Growing up, every curry or ‘torkari’ we had had one constant; jhol. Food is always juicy here as the main flavor source of any food in our deshi cuisine is generally the jhol.

The Aunty: Baba, d’you want some jhol with that shing maach? The Benglai Foodie:

With a penchant for the juicy, even the ‘Chinese’ food available in Bangladesh has been distinctly localized with an increased focus on spicy, juicy textures. Takeout and Madchef knew this well when they designed their burgers. Pretty much every burger on both their menus is soaked in juicy cheese, where a single bite leaves a lot of juices melting in your mouth.

Contrast this to Burger King’s burgers which are relatively very dry and you see why they don’t feel as good. It’s all in the force of habit. Burger King originated in the U.S., where taste palates weren’t very keen on gravy until much later, with the surge of interest in Mexican food starting in the 80’s, long after Burger King had already established itself.

Another reason why people were let down was probably just the weight of expectations.

Most of us had never been to Burger King before and with how the place had been build up in movies and TV Shows, we were probably expecting a piece of heaven in our mouths.

While the reason for people having different preferences are interesting, it still makes me feel a strange sense of pride to see local brands that haven’t been around for more than 3 years establish a domination that makes a global leader’s entry so difficult. I know for a fact that when I am around Dhanmondi, I will head over to Takeout or Madchef and not Burger King’s new Dhanmondi branch.

I believe I speak for you too.


by Rayaan Ibtesham Chowdhury