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Despite Recent Obstacles, U.S. Fast Food Chains Continue To Be Major Players Overseas

LOS ANGELES, September 17, 2014 () – Recently, I traveled to Indonesia, with a stopover in Tokyo. Although I’ve traveled internationally in the past, I had never been to Asia and thus never traveled such a long distance from home. My flight from Los Angeles to Tokyo started at 1:30 a.m. and when I got off the plane, I was tired, disoriented from the major time difference, and more than a bit thrown off by the fact that I was going to spend the next several hours in an airport where characters replaced letters.

Then I saw something that instantly made me feel better:

A McDonald’s.

And suddenly, I was home again. I knew everything was going to be OK.

Despite recent obstacles, major U.S. fast food chains continue to have a major place overseas. As U.S. sales for these companies stagnate, chains like McDonald’s, KFC and Burger King continue to look at other countries to further sales growth.

The overseas picture hasn’t been all sunshine and rainbows for the fast food industry in recent weeks. McDonald’s and KFC were hit hard by the expired meat scandal in China, and McDonald’s has been the subject of a government food safety probe in Russia that many feel is retaliation for Western sanctions placed on the country over its position in Ukraine.

But despite these obstacles, foreign growth of the fast food market isn’t going away, because it has the unique ability to appeal to both country residents and visitors. For residents, they get introduced to things like Big Macs and Whoppers that they previously had only heard about (not to mention have access to specialized menu items available only in that country). For visitors like me, it’s a welcome reminder that home—no matter how far it is—is never truly that far away.

Whether a resident or a visitor, people can always identify with fast food.

Nevin Barich is the Food and Beverage Analyst for Industry Intelligence. Email him here or follow him on Twitter here.

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