France is known the world over for its outstanding culinary traditions, from sidewalk cafes and refined bistros to lavish bakeries brimming with croissants and macarons. But in recent years, these institutions have faced increasing competition from American fast food chains that are especially popular among young consumers. For example, last month more than 500 hungry Parisians lined up before the doors opened at the city’s first Krispy Kreme location. “The French love American products, and there’s a hype around American food chains,” said Amir Boudokhane, a 25-year-old project manager who elected to be late for work in order to wait in line for donuts.
Although Krispy Kreme is the latest American brand to make a big impression on French consumers, it’s far from the only one. In spring 2023, Popeye’s drew similarly huge crowds when it opened a restaurant in Paris, the first of 350 planned locations across the country. Chains like Starbucks, Burger King, KFC, Chipotle, and Five Guys have been in France for years and also plan to expand with hundreds of new stores in the coming years. Still, the undisputed king of the fast food realm remains McDonald’s, which earns over $6.5 billion annually from its more than 1,500 French locations. In fact, the European nation ranks as the company’s most profitable country after the U.S.
“France is an El Dorado for American fast-food brands,” said food consultant Xavier Expilly, who worked on the French openings of Burger King and Five Guys. “Habits are shifting — people are eating faster than before, and they want a different experience. The American chains know how to respond to that need perfectly.” Young consumers are also becoming increasingly aware of American brands through TV and movies, which makes products from U.S. brands even more appealing. “This is all about American pop culture,” said Alexandre Maizoué, director general of Krispy Kreme France. He claims the company “appeals to Generation Netflix. They’ve seen all the American series. They like U.S. culture and the American art de vivre (art of living).”
- Why are American fast food chains becoming increasingly popular in France?
- Do you think rapidly expanding American fast food chains could potentially oversaturate the French market in the coming years? Why or why not?