You might not be able to discuss the growth of "fast food" chains in France, but Burger King Worldwide (NYSE: BKW ) is expanding in the land of Provence nonetheless, aiming to take on rival McDonald's (NYSE: MCD ) dominance in gay Paree.
In a bid to "protect" the French language from the infiltration of coarse and uncouth English words, the government has banned the use of the word "fast food" from the country's lexicon, and has even considered implementing laws defining which eateries may call themselves "restaurants." Of course, it's also banned words like "mother" and "father" from official documents, and stricken from the language English words like "supermodel," "podcasting," "email," and "blog," as well.
As wacky as the French are, Burger King says that as it moves to open restaurants all across the country, it will still call the Whopper a Whopper. There's apparently no need to change the iconic brand as McDonald's did with its Big Mac, which is now locally known as Le Royal Cheese.
In an agreement announced the other day, Burger King said it entered into a joint venture agreement with Groupe Olivier Bertrand, which already operates some 250 restaurants under a variety of nameplates throughout France, and private equity firm Naxicap Partners.
For the first time this year, fast food -- or whatever they're calling it these days -- surpassed traditional restaurants in sales, accounting for 54% of French dining receipts, underscoring that even in a country with a history of an affinity for fine cuisine (itself a French word), the lure of quick, simple meals remains strong. Sacre bleu!
Burger King won't have an easy time undermining McDonald's, though. According to the analysts at Euromonitor International, the burger joint maintained a commanding 47% share of the market compared to any other fast-food chain in 2011, as sales in France (and Germany) have helped bolster its European division's reputation as one of its star performers. In contrast, Wendy's has no presence at all in France, or in all of Europe, for that matter.
Burger King isn't a stranger to France, either, though it's been several years since it's had any significant presence there. Yet, like Napoleon Bonaparte returning from exile on Elba, the burger flipper believes its arrival again will enable it to garner significant public support and achieve a 20% share of the fast-food market.
McDonald's has some 1,200 restaurants already in place in the country, and the local competition, Quick -- a government-owned and -operated burger joint that acquired Burger King's restaurants when it exited the market in 1997 -- may be interested in selling its stores back to BK.
Between the joint venture and a possible acquisition, Burger King could quickly develop the size necessary to challenge McDonald's in France as the hamburger leader, even if it's not able to call itself that.
A rose by any other name
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