Ketchup Tastes Behind Burger King's Israeli Flameout?

Burger King is leaving Israel, after its local franchisee, Orgad Holdings, determined that customers preferred the burgers at its other eatery, Burger Ranch. “All the research carried out over the past few months shows beyond a doubt that the taste of Burger Ranch is the preferred taste for most Israelis,” said Orgad’s directors, who plan to convert their 52 Burger Kings into Burger Ranches. However, according to one Israeli burger lover and former BK manager, the culture clash is less about the beef and more about condiments.

Ruvy, who managed a Burger King in the U.S. for 13 years before moving to Israel, insists that the burgers served by both restaurants are largely identical, and that the main differences have to do with ketchup choices.

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.

Ruvy also says that BK never managed to fully localize, and its restaurants felt more like American outposts than real Israeli burger joints.

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.

Despite the criticism, Ruvy says he’ll miss BK when it leaves. “I prefer the Whopper Sandwich to the Burger Ranch equivalent myself,” he says. Ruvy and others had better hurry if they want to have it their way; the King abdicates in August.

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