McDonald’s restaurants are known around the world and while the company has many Jamaican flavor items on the menu, no one will see the golden arches of McDonald’s Corp. in Jamaica. The company first opened there in 1995 and suspended its operations on Oct. 14, 2005.
People can find their favorite fries and burgers as close as Trinidad and Tobago, along with such far-flung locations as Israel’s Negev Desert. With such a worldwide presence and brand recognition, many still wonder why the company’s well-known Big Mac® and chicken nuggets weren’t popular in Jamaica. The following are just some of the reasons the restaurant didn’t survive in Jamaica.
1. Lack of Research
The research performed by McDonald’s didn’t accurately reflect the Jamaican approach to food. There were numerous complaints ranging from the burgers were too small to the meals not being filling enough.
2. Company Requirements and Costs
The exclusive training, time needed, and very large financial investment the restaurant chain requires of its franchise owners is extensive and far more than most people want to endure. The company requires franchise owners to undergo nine months of unpaid learning to understand the corporate culture. Franchise owners must make McDonald’s their one and only business interest and pay the corporate office monthly rent, marketing fees, and a percentage of annual sales.
3. Slow Economy
At the time when McDonald’s was trying to expand into the Jamaican market, it was during a period of slow economic growth.
4. Food and Sourcing
McDonald’s imported the beef and other ingredients for the food it served instead of obtaining it from local sources. The company eventually arrived at an agreement for local sourcing, but other problems remained. Any chain restaurant must make adjustments to its menu when operating in other countries, but McDonald’s didn’t take into consideration the taste preferences of Jamaicans, didn’t incorporate local dishes, or serve alcohol.
5. Failed Efforts
Even when McDonald’s tried to accommodate Jamaican tastes in other countries, the effort fell flat. The company introduced its Jamaican jerk chicken “burger” with spicy jerk sauce to its menu in the UK. It didn’t find favor with the significant Jamaican population there.
Note: There was a lawsuit against McDonald’s Corporation (USA) by a local Jamaican restaurant named McDonald’s Corporation Limited. It stalled the opening of a McDonald’s Corporation (USA) location in Kingston but not at other locations on the island. See the details here.
Amended on 7/15/2020 to add a note on the lawsuit against McDonald’s Corporation (USA) in Jamaica.