That is right—McDonalds has taken the ‘Israeli version of the hamburger’, the Falafel, and has begun to sell it in their fast food restaurants. Talk about Chutzpa! We decided to check it out and see what Israeli true Falafel vendors thought of McDonalds’ invasion onto their turf.
This is par for the course with McDonalds. McDonalds India serves the McVeggie (because they worship cows in India instead of eating them). In place of the Big Mac, they have the Chicken Maharaja Mac. McDonalds is famous for localizing their products. But this time they have gone too far.
The whole point of a falafel is its authenticity. Nothing says cookie cutter-assembly line like McDonalds. You don’t want your Falafel made in a western looking fast food restaurant, you want it made by Avi, who has been making your falafels for years, who knows you by name and likes to kibitz (joke around) with you when you come in.
An ad for the new ‘McFalafel’ at an Israeli bus stop
Here are a few things you need to know about falafels.
They are made fresh, as you eat them.
Everybody likes to choose what salads and spices they want inside and to have a large supply of tahini (sesame seed based sauce or paste) to continue pouring on as they eat.
You must eat it immediately. The idea of one sitting under the heat lamps at McDonalds is unsettling.
While McDonald’s thinks it is reaching out to the locals, they couldn’t be more wrong. Israelis love that McDonalds is here. They are all very successful—SELLING HAMBURGERS! But I think you would be hard-pressed to find one Israeli Jew or Israeli Arab that appreciates McDonalds foraying into the Middle Eastern food market. Furthermore, I don’t think you would find one person here in Israel that would prefer McDonald’s McFalafel to the local version.
In talking with local falafel vendors, they didn’t seem too threatened. One said, after seeing the patty-like shape of the McDonald falafel, as opposed to the traditional ball-shaped, that “It is like a brick. You can throw it like a stone in the intifada (referring to when Palestinian youths would throw stones at Israelis).”
The sentiment was clear, “They should stick to Hamburgers and we will take care of the falafels.” Sounds good to me.