Billions Want to Be Served : McDonald's Is Really Cookin' in Mexico

United Press International

More than a week after the first McDonald's restaurant opened in Mexico, long lines spilled into the street as people patiently awaited the taste of their first Mexican-made Big Mac.

Cars waiting to enter the packed McDonald's parking lot or pass through the novel drive-through window caused mammoth traffic jams along the Perifico Sur, the most important thoroughfare in southern Mexico City.

Opening Till Closing

"It's been the same from 10 o'clock in the morning until the hour we close . . . " said Saul Kahan, president of Fast Food Systems, venture partner with the U.S. McDonald's company.

Kahan attributed the instant popularity to McDonald's fame among Mexicans who have visited the United States, and to "curiosity" about the new style of fast-food service.

Employee Juan Carlos Cabeza said McDonald's was an instant success because it was a symbol of American culture. Mexican traditional fast foods are tacos from a corner stand.

"It's American, that's the reason," said Cabeza, 19, who has been cooking and serving McDonald's hamburgers since opening day Oct. 29.

"Most people ask for a Big Mac or a Quarter Pounder With Cheese because they're tasty, and because you can only find them here," Cabeza said.

Few Complaints

The only complaints he has heard have been references to the lengthy waiting lines outside the restaurant.

Two policemen stood guard at the front door, granting entrance to families as McDonald's managers gave the OK. All exits were guarded to make sure no one slipped in another door.

Marta Zetina and her three sons said the waiting line moved quickly, even though it averaged 100 people and extended into the street. At peak hours, the line stretched halfway around the block.

"It was definitely worth the wait," Zetina said.

She said her family travels frequently to the United States and eats at McDonald's on each visit.

Cherry Pie Missing

"We came here to see if it was the same," she said. Her teen-age sons agreed that the hamburgers were "very similar" to those in American McDonald's.

"The only thing that was missing was the cherry pie," said Julio Zetina, who visited the new McDonald's four times in its first week of operation.

He predicted that the waiting lines will not diminish for another month and that even then the restaurant will be overcrowded.

"They have to open more McDonald's, that's the only answer," he said.

Kahan said plans are under way for several restaurants throughout the city, and the next one could be inaugurated as early as February.

Although Mexico has a number of fast-food restaurants, none of them carried the same name as American ones until McDonald's opened.

The American firm had not ventured into Mexico previously because the company could not obtain guarantees that it could acquire the same quality of meat it uses in the United States.

Ready to Roll

Once that problem was solved, it sought Mexican investors to open franchises.

The company took out full-page advertisements in Mexico City newspapers to publicize the opening of the fast-food restaurant and received additional publicity when Mexican media treated the inauguration as news.

Zetina said she read about the McDonald's opening on the front page of a newspaper and heard about it from friends.

"The whole world knew," she said.

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