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The American Culinary Classic Goes to Africa: The Hamburger

Updated on December 11, 2013

Go just about anywhere in Africa for a U.S. style fries and hamburger and you will find great difficulty. That is, until you reach Nigeria and South Africa. Finally, you might find one because Johnny Rocket, Burger King, McDonald's have recently introduced this American classic.

The bulk of the fast food stores, some 200, are slated for the South Africa environs. These will join the 177 McDonald's already there in South Africa. The hamburger has trailed in the other American fast food, chicken and pizza. Yum Brands has 1000 KFC stores in Africa and Dominos Pizza has five stores in Nigeria. Many Africans still have no clue what a pizza is, but most know of KFC because of the chicken, which is staple on the continent.

Hamburger is a whole different issue, not because it is meat, but because it is difficult in getting good, quality cattle raised locally to provide it. In addition, the American burger has toppings and veggie toppings, all needing refrigeration. Africans, like Americans, love meat, yet their cattle are scrawny and not good sources. There are few large cattle producing ranches.

Opening a store is an expensive proposition. Many times, a small waste treatment plant must be built behind the store costing $60k. Many Africans know nothing about the food or operating a fast food store requiring longer periods and cost of training. But, the hardest issue is finding quality meat. Some fast food companies have had to invest $5 million in creating cattle herds that enable 1.2 million hamburger patties to be made per week. Attempts have been made to bring in the European brown cow, but the cow succumbs to many diseases there. So, the next best thing was to mate the brown cow with the local Nigerian cattle. So far, it has worked and the cattle are robust, but there is still the problem of green grass for thousands of cattle. In much of Africa, this is also a real issue.

So, what does the same single patty with cheese, tomato and lettuce cost at Johnny Rocket's in Lagos, Nigeria? $14 USD. This is nearly three times the cost in the USA. The breakdown in costs for the hamburger, per kilo, is:

  • $10.73 for tomato
  • $13.88 for cheese
  • $7.57 for meat
  • $10.10 for lettuce

In the USA, none of the above costs, per kilo, are more than $4.20. Cheese and tomatoes are three times more expensive in Africa, beef is twice as costly, and lettuce is five times more expensive there!

Even the hamburger meal runs $14 in Lagos, the Rocket joint brings in 300-400 customers daily. So, it is a food for the affluent class.

The first Johnny Rockets opened on June 6, 1986, on Melrose Avenue in Los Angeles,


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