When the first McDonald’s restaurant opened almost two decades ago in Johannesburg, a teenage boy named Thando Tshabalala was among the thousands who stood in line patiently waiting to try one of those famous burgers. “We had seen this place in every movie we ever watched, and it seemed to be mentioned in every song, so I had to try it for myself,” he said.
Given such enthusiasm, it was hardly surprising that South Africa proved to be fertile territory for the burger chain, breaking expansion records with 30 outlets opening in under two years. Today the company operates more than 200 restaurants across the country. When arch-rival Burger King finally entered the market last year it was greeted with similar excitable scenes – almost 5,000 people descended on its launch branch in Cape Town, some even sleeping on the street to ensure they got their hands on a Whopper. “We did not expect the demand to be so great,” its chairman confessed later.