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McDonald’s to open vegetarian-only outlets in India

This undated image provided by McDonald’s Corp. shows an item available it's soopen vegetarian-only restaurants India. The company already offers

This undated image provided by McDonald’s Corp. shows an item available in it's soon to open vegetarian-only restaurants in India. The company already offers menu items that cater to local tastes, such as the Maharaja Mac, which is a Big Mac except with chicken patties instead of beef. (AP Photo/McDonald's Corp.)

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Updated: October 6, 2012 1:46PM

McDonald’s lovers, might you be interested in a McAloo Tikki?

You’ll have to travel to India to sample the breaded potato and pea patty, which will be among offerings at McDonald’s first two vegetarian-only restaurants it plans to open in a country where cows are viewed as sacred and eating beef a no-no.

“In markets across the world, McDonald’s respects local cultures and has adopted our menu and dining experience to local preferences,” Becca Haray, spokeswoman for the hamburger chain giant, said in an email statement.

“In India, our McDonald’s kitchens have always been divided into separate sections for cooking vegetarian and non-vegetarian food, and the restaurants there do not sell beef or pork. The new restaurants in pilgrimage areas will be vegetarian-only because of the specific area and customer base.”

Haray could not immediately specify exactly where in India the restaurants will be located or when they will open, but several media reports, including the BBC and the Globe and Mail, said the restaurants will open next year in Amritsar, home of the Golden Temple, a Sikh holy site; and in Katra, the starting point for Hindus visiting the mountain shrine of Vaishno Devi.

McDonalds’ menu items in India now include the Maharaja Mac, a chicken version of the Big Mac; and the McAloo Tikki, which is sold on a bun with special vegetable sauce, ketchup, red onions and two tomato slices, Haray said.

McDonald’s had 240 Indian restaurants in India as of the end of last year, and its profit margins there were at least 17.3 percent, according to information the company presented during an analyst day last November, Morningstar Inc. senior restaurant analyst R.J. Hottovy said. Opening the vegetarian sites fits in with the restaurant chain’s strategy, he said.

“It helps to bring more awareness of the brand name while at the same time appeasing the local customs and preferences in India, which obviously are quite different from a lot of the rest of the world,” he said.

Hottovy said he wouldn’t be surprised to see McDonald’s open other vegetarian restaurants.

“I think there’s certainly a possibility of that,” he said “I think it will depend on what the market dictates. If it’s a place where they see an opportunity, where there is demand for these types of locations, I think McDonald’s would have no problem expanding this concept, rolling it out in other markets.”

But he doubts a vegetarian only McDonald’s is on tap for the U.S.

“I just don’t see that,” he said. “In the U.S., McDonald’s is too well known for its core menu. I would be surprised to see them deviate too far from that. They really let the U.S. consumer dictate what they put on their menus.”

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