India's economy is on fire. Some predict it will be the world's largest economy by 2050. So now's the time to look for long-term investment opportunities in this emerging market. It so happens, some delicious investment opportunities are unfolding as India begins to embrace an American favorite: fast food.

A larger middle class with more disposable income is partly responsible for the increasing interest in fast food. Sales at fast-food chains are growing at a rate of 28% in India. As a result, American fast-food companies that are hungry for growth are gathering around the table.    

The India invasion
Domino's Pizza (NYSE: DPZ) dominates the Indian pizza market with a total share of around 50%. Total store count doubled in the last four years, to 335 across 79 cities. And it appears more growth is on the menu.

Management says the saturation level is still low in existing cities. Consequently, the company plans to open 70 new stores in existing cities in 2011. In addition, the company is looking at further expansion into the rapidly growing, but smaller, tier II and tier III cities.

Starbucks (Nasdaq: SBUX) is getting in on the act as well. The company plans to open its first location later this year. CEO Howard Schultz said India is "as large an opportunity as there exists in the world, coupled with China." From 1998 to 2008, coffee consumption in India rose an astounding 90%. The current caffeine craze creates a large opportunity indeed.    

Don't forget about Yum! Brands (NYSE: YUM), the parent company of Taco Bell, KFC, and Pizza Hut. Because of its success in China, Yum! is an international fast-food phenomenon. Now the company is targeting India with plans to quadruple its existing network of greasy food chains over the next five years, to 1,000. The growth prospects are intriguing.

And last but not least, there's McDonald's (NYSE: MCD). McDonald's plans to open 30 new India locations in 2011, marking the beginning of a multiyear India expansion plan. In order to compete, the company is shedding its red meat roots in favor of a more culturally appropriate menu (think veggie patties).

The bottom line
American fast-food companies are in a global growth phase in emerging markets such as India. Investing in this trend is a recipe for super-sized returns for years to come. 

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