Friday, May 29, 2015

Freshness Burger in Yangon

I am always fascinated by how global fast food chains adapt to local markets around the world. I have been chronically this through companies like McDonalds, KFC, and Starbucks, which originated in America. And others like Al-Baik from SuaidArabia, and now Freshness Burger from Japan.

When I finished my contract in Japan and left the country, I had no idea that I would ever be able to eat a Freshness Burther outside of Japan. Even less did I expect to find one in a back alley of Yangon, Myanmar. So you can imagine my look of disbelief when I saw that Freshness Burger sign atop something called “Culture Valley,” a mall-meets-arboretum. The mall itself is pretty sorry. A few foreign fast food joints, some local shops selling longyis and beauty products. They don’t seem to know if they are targeting locals or foreigners, tourists or residents. Capitalism is relatively new here. There’s a learning curve and we are witnessing it.

Upon entering the restaurant the staff greet you with “Irashemase!” – “Welcome” in Japanese. As typical of the over-staffing problem I see in Myanmar, we were the only customers in Freshness Burger but were greeted by no less than eight staff. 2 behind the counter. 2 in the kitchen, 2 talking in the bathroom, and two talking in a booth. Too many workers and not enough to do. Even if the restaurant was full I doubt eight people would find enough work to do.

The menu itself bore some symptons of assimilation. Among the items I’ve never seen in Japan were a grilled frank and carrot smoothie. I was also surprised to find cheaper prices in Myanmar. A classic cheeseburger with a drink and fries was only 6,300 kyats ($6.30). In Japan this would be at least 1,000 yen ($10). There was also free wifi, another rarity in Japan.

As for the food, the cheeseburger tasted enough like Freshness Burger in Japan, only I am certain they did not use real cheddar cheese. The cheese was white and tasted like the same blandcheese I have eaten all over the country. Since I can’t identity it, I call in “Myanmar cheese.” The ketchup was also spicier than Japan’s.

One reason for the lack of foot traffic might be their inauspicious location. They are in the back of the ball, with no front enterance, and facing a dump. Oddly, inside the Freshness Burger a “Fancy store from Korea” will be opening soon.

For having liked them on Facebook, I got a free tote bag. 

Free sausage that came with our meal as a promotion

Opening soon - in Freshness Burger!

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