McDonalds in China; Elle in the Middle East

The Wall Street Journal features two articles on business globalization and localization — from McDonald’s building drive-thrus in China to Elle publishiing a Middle East edition.

For Elle, the challenge is complex because there is no one “Middle East” market when it comes to fashion and cultural dress codes. Says the article, “Clothing customs vary widely throughout the region. In some countries like Lebanon, many of the clothes shown in Elle might be worn on the street. In others, like Iran and Saudi Arabia, they’d be reserved for private gatherings of women. Accessories, from designer shoes to handbags, scarves, sunglasses and jewelry, are permitted almost everywhere.”

McDonald’s got started in China in 1990 and plans to have 1,000 locations open by the Beijing Olympics in 2008. Roughly half of all future locations will have drive-thrus. But because this is still a new concept in China, McDonald’s is treading carefully. For its first drive-thru, it had a human taking orders rather than that garbled box we Americans have barked into for years. The larger issue is that the Chinese look at restaurants as gathering places and not pass-thru places, at least not yet. Says the article…

McDonald’s has spent much of its time in China learning to slow down from its fast-paced U.S. roots. The company’s new restaurants have Internet connections, play areas for children and special seating for their mothers, all of which are designed to reinforce their role as gathering places. “We eat McDonald’s when the kids want to,” says Luo Wenwei, a housewife from the prosperous southern town of Dongguan, who drives a Volkswagen.

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