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.