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Burger King Flaming Down in Israel: Native Tastes Outweigh American Recipes

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Various news media here are reporting the decision of the owners of the Burger King franchise in Israel, Orgad Holdings, to shut it down this summer. Orgad Holdings also owns the other major "flame broiled burger" franchise in Israel, Burger Ranch, as a careful look at this Hebrew commercial will illustrate. The present Burger King restaurants will be transformed into Burger Ranch restaurants. For a brief history of the business manipulations that Burger King and Burger Ranch have gone through in Israel, see this Wikipedia article.

According to the Jerusalem Post, Arutz Sheva, and other reports, the basic reason given by its owners for the transformation of Burger King into Burger Ranch is that the consumers of flame broiled burgers in Israel, mostly upscale Israelis, prefer the flavor of the Burger Ranch burgers over those of Burger King.

Here, I get to speak with some professional knowledge on the matter, having managed at a Burger King for some thirteen years in the States before emigrating here to Israel. The difference between the two hamburgers is minimal. Burger Ranch uses slightly more advanced broiler technology, and gets (or got) its meat from South Africa, where the chain originated. Burger King gets (or got) its meat from Brazil. The technical issues of heat and cooking have to be identical because in making hamburgers for mass consumption, the issue is cooking the hamburgers to a heat above the kill temperature of bacteria (minimum 80C), and maintaining the sandwiches sold at a hot enough temperature so that customers do not get food poisoning. Both Burger Ranch and Burger King hamburgers are made with lettuce, pickles, tomatoes, and onions, all obtained locally, and with catsup, mustard, and mayonnaise.

The only difference in the two burgers is in the catsup and mayonnaise. Burger King, as per the recipes worked out in its kitchens in Wisconsin, uses Heinz catsup and mustard, as well as Heinz mayonnaise. Burger Ranch uses local brands of the same products. So, the sources of the taste differences between the two hamburgers are in the catsup, mustard, and mayonnaise.

Heinz catsup is not as sweet as the Israeli catsup sold here; the Heinz mayonnaise has a different flavor from the local brands; and the local mustard is sharper than the mild Heinz mustard used on the hamburgers and double hamburgers at Burger King. The result is that there is a distinctly different flavor of the Burger Ranch hamburgers compared to the analogous Burger King products.

Unfortunately, the Burger King franchise here never approached the basic speed of service standards used in the United States — 180 seconds "door to door" (meaning when the customer entered the line to the time he got his food) — and the idea of "have it your way" never really was absorbed by either the management or the owners here, and it is this difference in speed of service and individualized customer service that might have saved the Burger King recipes from extinction here.

But that is catsup under the bridge, so to speak.

I suspect that there may be a bit more to the preference for Burger Ranch over Burger King by Israeli eaters than mere taste preferences. I suspect that culture enters into it — as well as politics.

When you walk into a Burger King, you are walking into an American restaurant with the stuff translated into Hebrew. The central marketing offices market for America and push American culture in all Burger Kings worldwide. There are concessions made to local tastes in food — I remember a Brit excoriating me in the Minnesota restaurant where I worked because it did not carry some item common to British Burger King branches. But food concessions aside, Burger King is America. Suffusing the store is American culture, with English all over the place.

By contrast, a Burger Ranch proclaims its Israeli identity. This Israeli commercial talks about a special for Independence Day — yom ha'atzma'út — for example. Big signs in-store highlight the discounts "for hungry soldiers." There is nary a word to be found in English in the entire store. To be sure, Burger King does offer soldiers' discounts — every large chain here does. But Burger King does not make a big deal about it. That is the cultural angle.

Politically, America has been pressuring Israel in a number of very nasty ways in the last year and a half and America is no longer anywhere near as popular as it had been a while ago. The anti-Israel policies of the sitting government in the United States are taking their toll on what are, in essence, the representatives of American culture here. That is what appears to be the case, in my opinion, and that dislike is being carried right to the gut. Honestly, Heinz condiments don't taste that bad. In fact, I think they taste better, and I prefer the Whopper Sandwich to the Burger Ranch equivalent myself. But then again, I was born in America.

They say the last things to go in an immigrant are food cravings. It's been nine years. I think I'll manage. However, when the Burger Kings do close down in Israel, I will miss the Whopper Sandwiches. Oh well. G-d closes a door — and opens a window.

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About Ruvy

Hi!! Thanks for coming to my article! I was raised in Brooklyn, was graduated from the City University of New York in 1978 with a BA in political science and public administration there. I lived in Minnesota for a number of years. There I managed restaurants and wrote stories. We moved with our children family to Israel where we now reside. My work can be found at Ruvy's Roost, Jewish Indy,, and on Facebook under my full name, Reuven Kossover
  • Firius

    what a big load of crap !!! im from Israel .. none of the locals think Burger Ranch is better … it tastes bad .. nothing compares to a good whopper ! .. don’t believe this article … WE WANT BURGER KING BACK!
    take this burger ranch crap and burn it

  • Hi Judy,

    Dunkin’ Donuts, like Wendy’s and Starbucks, tried and failed. Starbucks served trash and deserved to fail. In J-lem, even Sbarro’s failed because they didn’t give a damn about the product they served or their customers. Israeli cops really need as good doughnut joint where they can coop and tell people paying them bribes to bring their money, though.

    If you are going to eat meat, get used to a Middle Eastern diet. Forget the burgers and ketchup. Nothing matches Burger King, and nothing matches the flavor of Heinz Ketchup on it. But you can really get great shwarma, chicken dishes, kubbeh and all the other delights we serve here (mostly creations of Arab countries). Get used to having Húmmus and teHína and lots of salátim. And you can always go to a super market and get Heinz ketchup, Hellman’s mayonnaise, and delicious hot mustard. Israel’s a great country for food – so long as you are not into bacon, eggs and hashbrowns….

    shabbát shalóm u’mevorákh v’púrim saméaH!

    And welcome home!!!

  • Judy

    Hi Ruvy,
    I made aliyah about a year ago and I was looking for Burger King restaurants, couln’t find any. In Europe, I always preferred BK over McDonald’s, and now in Israel I just can’t seem to get a good hamburger… I also prefer Heinz products over the israeli ones, but what can I do if most people like what they got used to?
    BTW, I have travelled across the world and always try BK, McD and KFC, and they are definitely NOT identical!!! KFC is super in Hungary, but it is too spicy in Indonesia, where they serve scrambled eggs and steamed rice with a burger in McDonalds, it tastes weird but it is good. 🙂 And the only country where I can eat a good BigMac without getting sick after it, is in the UK.
    Love these differences and I would have loved to enjoy BK in Israel… I also don’t get it how Dunkin’ Donuts didn’t make it here… Miss it so much. 🙂

  • Ruvy


    I always preferred Burger King over the other burger joints in the States, even before I worked there. I used to work as an usher in a movie theatre in midtown Manhattan – on my breaks I would stop at a Burger King and buy a double-Whopper, and return to the theatre, hide in a seat and eat my dinner watching the usual fare at the theatre – The “Texas Chainsaw Massacre”.

  • You won’t be missing much, Ruvy. Burger King = YUK.

  • Ruvy, when in Haifa (my first visit to Israel in 1980), I had the best falafel I ever had (beating anything I ever got back in Queens). I still remembered that on my next visit in 2000 and was not disappointed.

    If tradition holds, I will be returning in 2020. I am certain the falafel will still be as good then.

    It is amazing how powerful a taste can be remembered!

  • Burger King in Israel also serves kosher meat, Elvira. The point I tried to make was that the only reason the Burger Ranch hamburgers taste different are the catsup, mayonnaise and mustard – everything else is virtually identical.

    Let’s say I walked into a Burger King and a Burger Ranch and ordered from each one, a hamburger plain with no condiments on it. Assuming that I got this at Burger King (they don’t seem to believe in giving things your way), and assuming that I got the same plain hamburger at Burger Ranch, there will have been NO difference in the prep.

  • Ruvy:

    It’s interesting that the kosher Burger Ranch tastes so similar to Burger king save for the condiments (unless of course the Burger Kings in Israel use kosher meat also).

  • Thanks for stopping by and taking the trouble to look this over. I’m glad you enjoyed it. Well, you are better traveled than I, and I suspect you will remain so. I don’t foresee myself having the money to traipse all over the planet in my life-time.

    But if I were to do so, I would not seek out a Burger King for a slice of home. I would seek out a falafel stand and ask, básta hazót kashrá – is this stand kosher? That is more important than anything else. If it is not kosher, I’ll look up the local Habá”d or seek out a Hallál restaurant.

  • I enjoyed this article, Ruvy. Having traveled all around the world, I get mixed feelings when I see a KFC in Tokyo or a Sizzler in Bangkok, still sometimes when I’m away I enjoy a taste of home.

    The truth is your article is about more than “taste” though, about a whole slew of cultural things going on. Still, when I ate french fires in McDonald’s, whether in Prague or New York, the damn things taste identical. Hmm.

  • Elvira,

    …is Burger Ranch kosher?

    Thank you so much for stopping by. And thanks for the kind words. All Burger Ranches in Israel sell kosher food. But some are open on the Sabbath, and therefore the Rabbinate will not certify them as kosher, for reasons you understand, and that I needn’t explain to you.

    There is a separate and independent chain, Burger Ranch in Portugal or Brazil, which is not kosher and uses different logos altogether. I suspect it is not related to the Burger Ranch chain in Israel.

  • Ruvy: is Burger Ranch kosher?

    Great article. One doesn’t always think that food is such a significant source of cultural identity (though my master’s thesis was about food references in the novels of George Gissing, a minor Brit novelist of the 19th century).

    Speaking of Jew food; just visited my 90 year old auntie on the Lower East Side and of course had to bring back goodies like Kossar’s bagels and bialys, 7 layer cake and blue and white cookies (in honor of Israel) from the kosher bakery, and knishes.

    Burger King has some crazy advertising gimmicks at least in the US. There was (not sure if it still exists) some website where you could talk to a chicken and tell it to turn around, stand on its head, etc. And then there’s that crazy Burger King with the cartoon mask.

    Nice stuff Ruvy.

  • Interesting take.

    And I do agree, it’s more of a culture thing than anything else, the anti-American sentiment, and it spread to all areas (including food). After all, any American franchise in any foreign land is an icon.

  • BTW, thanks for stopping by.

  • Pasty,

    Catsup=ketchup. I use both spellings and when I was a kid used “ketchup” more. Both are spelt (the alternate spelling for “spelled”, not the grain) right.

    Did you check out the Youtube commercials I linked to? They’re all in Hebrew and I wanted some feedback as to whether the points I was trying to make came clear to non-Hebrew speakers.

  • Pasty

    There’s another word that I haven’t heard before – catsup. Presumably that is what we in the UK call ketchup?