McDonald’s is a global brand, no doubt about that. Together with Starbucks and Apple, the golden arches is one of the most popular logos in the world. Everybody knows what that sign means, children all over the world go nuts in the car as they pass by a McDonald’s logo. Believe it or not, McDonald’s was just one store when it was founded in 1940. For an extensive, intriguing, and entertaining history of the restaurant, check out Michael Keaton’s film The Founder (2016). From a single store in San Bernardino, California, McDonald’s now has more than 36,800 stores all over the world. The world-famous restaurant serves 68 million customers every day and has provided a livelihood to 375,000 employees as of the end of 2016.
With restaurants in 120 countries, and with the popularity of McDonald’s all over the globe, one might think there are McDonald’s everywhere. But try to think back, in one of our travels we may have landed in a country where there’s not a single McDonald’s restaurant in sight. Here’s a list of 10 of them and why they do not have a McDonald’s, and on the flipside, another 10 countries with the most sales, translating to the most restaurants.
20 Not Allowed: Bermuda
Bermuda law is depriving its citizens of Happy Meals; this is sad news. Bermuda is an island in the North Atlantic Ocean under British Territory. If one swims from South Carolina straight to Africa, they would have taken a break in Bermuda. It’s an island nation with a distinct nationality and strict foreign fast-food laws. The Prohibited Restaurants Act of 1977 is stopping any local from getting a Big Mac, as it states that it is considered a criminal offense for any foreign fast-food company to operate in the country. Lucky for KFC they got one restaurant there before the legislation was effected.
19 Not Allowed: Macedonia
Some time ago, there were McDonald’s restaurants in Macedonia. In fact, there were seven of them in the European country north of Greece. This kind of situation particularly hurts more than the other countries in this list, because the Macedonians have tasted the food, and for 16 years they enjoyed it. To suddenly remove something in one’s daily life is something that is hard to adjust to, especially if that person absolutely loves McDonald’s. Until that fateful day in 2013, where no one really knows what exactly happened (something involving licenses and franchising), McDonald’s was serving their famous fries to Macedonians every day since 2009.
18 Not Allowed: Montenegro
How can the country of Montenegro have a Bumblebee in the middle of its streets and not have a single Mcdonald’s in sight, not even in its capital city of Podgorica? Some reports say that the Balkan country banned McDonald’s, but their government denied it and released a statement that they are not banning McDonald’s. Hard to believe, since there’s no KFC, Burger King, or any other foreign fast-food restaurant operating in Montenegro. If you find yourself vacationing here and suddenly get a hankering for burgers, there’s a Hard Rock in Podgorica. They also serve hamburgers, it’s not Mickey D’s, but it serves the purpose.
17 Not Allowed: Iran
A rocky relationship, to say the least, between the Middle East and the US, has some undesirable side effects. One example of this side effect is how it translates to global businesses like McDonald’s. If two countries, like the US and Iran, cannot come to terms politically, then what will we expect between McDonald’s getting the green light to run operations in Iranian soil, McZero chance. Coincidentally, some Iranian entrepreneurs had shortages in terms of creativity. Iran has a poor clone for McDonald’s and it’s called Mash Donald’s. It even has those famous golden arches, but with shades of white inside it. Alterations and little changes were made to avoid copyright issues. Some other shops in Iran are Starbox, Pizza Hat, and Kabooky Fried Chicken.
16 Not Allowed: Jamaica
One of the rare occasions that McDonald’s had to pull business back happened in the home of music legend Bob Marley and 9-time Olympic gold medalist Usain Bolt. As unbelievable as it sounds, McDonald's tucked tail and retreated from the Jamaican market. There were a lot of reasons for why they decided to let go, but the best one is this. Jamaicans like their burgers big. That’s why Burger King is still there. Let’s face it, McDonald’s burgers aren’t as big as Burger King’s burgers. No McDonald’s burger is bigger than a Whopper. No McDonald’s, no cry, as Marley would have said.
15 Not Allowed: Barbados
Here is another country where McDonald’s kind of lost their footing. Barbados is a Caribbean island in the Atlantic Ocean, right above Grenada and on the right side of St. Vincent and the Grenadines. A British Commonwealth independent nation, Barbados is an island of great beaches and great-tasting food. Back in 1996, McDonald’s ventured off to the Caribbean and opened a store in Barbados, which now is the Consolidated Finance building, much to the delight of most locals. But after three months, it seemed that it would not pan out. The Bajans seem not to like the food. The weird thing is that there are a KFC and a Burger King on the island. In less than a year, McDonald’s packed their bags and left.
14 Not Allowed: North Korea
North Korea can be described as one of the most unpredictable countries in the world. For example, since the Korean War, a conflict that lasted three years, this is the first time that the two nations of North and South Korea have shown amicable displays of civility. Peace talks are currently in the works, and it’s an amazing thing. The Korean nation in the south has, as of last year, 450 McDonald’s, while North Korea has zero. There is a long history of disagreement, misunderstanding, or maybe just simple displeasure between the leaders of the two nations, resulting in a difficulty in establishing American businesses in North Korea. But now that North and South Korea are opening the gates of peace, maybe there’s a chance for McDonald’s to cross borders and set up shop in the north.
13 Not Allowed: Zimbabwe
Eighteen years ago, in 2000, McDonald’s was about to expand to Zimbabwe, but the country had an economic crisis. It was so big and serious, it even led to food shortages throughout the country. The important thing is that there is still a chance for Zimbabweans to have their quarter pounders in the future. But that future, according to McDonald’s is not any time soon, at least the most popular fast food chain is not banned in Zimbabwe. In the meantime, Zimbabweans can just settle for KFC.
12 Not Allowed: Bolivia
This non-McDonald’s country is bordered by Brazil in the north and east, Peru and Chile in the west, and Argentina and Paraguay in the south. Bolivia is a country in South America with a population upwards of 11 million. That’s a possible market of 11 million hungry customers. The fact is that there are no more McDonald’s stores anywhere in this country. With a lethal combination of the most influential forces telling the people not to support McDonald’s, and that McDonald’s was operating at a loss from 1997 to 2002. But no more than 10 months ago, McDonald’s gave this country one more shot by opening a store in Santa Cruz.
11 Not Allowed: Ghana
Having a McDonald’s in a particular country would always depend on its economy. Fast food is not the kind of food a common citizen needs. In the case of Ghana, a West African country in the middle of Guinea and Nigeria, the regular Joe there does not have enough money to afford a McDonald’s meal every day. That’s not the whole story, though. It could also be the stylistic long-standing trend of the food and restaurant industry in Ghana. Fast food restaurants have never been tried in this country, there’s no KFC, Burger King, or Pizza Hut here, either. The closest thing to fast food in Ghana is a local restaurant called Papaye where food takes 6-10 minutes to serve.
10 Most Sales: The United States
The home of Ronald McDonald, Grimace, Hamburglar, Birdie, and the rest of the gang is in America. This is where it all started. Definitely, there are more sales (total) in the United States than any other country in the world. There were 14,027 McDonald’s restaurants in the USA as of 2017, and we’re sure new ones opened since then. This number is the highest out of all countries, obviously, since it started here in 1940. In the US alone, McDonald’s sales were upwards of $22.2 billion in 2017. Sales in the US is slow compared to international sales, but the growth is still there, a steady increase every year since 2014.
9 Most Sales: Japan
McDonald’s in Japan had its best year ever in 2017. It had a total earnings of 24 billion! That’s in yen, haha! But when converted to dollars it’s still a whopping $225.4 million! It’s quite a jump from their 2016 sales of just almost $50 million. Japan’s McDonald’s is great, with the new CEO turning things around it has made a big difference in just three years. Menus have been tweaked, one example is their McChoco Potato, it's fried with choco syrup toppings. They also have in their regular menu, the teriyaki burger and the shrimp fillet sandwich.
8 Most Sales: China
The first ever McDonald’s store that opened in China’s mainland is the one that opened 28-years ago in Shenzhen Special Economic Zone. Two years later, in 1992, and during that time, China opened the biggest ever McDonald’s restaurant in the world in its capital city. This Beijing behemoth seats 700 customers and was the start of a McLovin’ It trend in China. In 4 years there were almost 30 stores, just in Beijing. As of 2016, China has 2,391 McDonald’s stores, and news in 2017 stated the plan of having 4,500 stores by 2022. Not bad for an American fast food company successfully penetrating the largest market in the world.
7 Most Sales: Germany
“Ich liebe es,” that’s the German version of the McDonald’s tagline “I’m lovin’ it.” The success of McDonald’s in Germany was officialized when, for the first time since it opened in 1971, sales reached 1 billion in 1989. This is one feat that was a long time coming, as Germany was the second European country to have a McDonald’s, the first was the Netherlands. It was hard penetrating the German market and the demographic, but the McCafe was the answer to that. When McDonald’s focused on their cafes with premium coffee, and cafe style stores, opening 500 of them by 2008, the company proved to the public that they were listening and were willing to change things for its customers. As of 2016, there were 1,476 stores in Germany, fourth highest in the world.
6 Most Sales: France
Maybe you’ve heard of this joke: Why do French people eat snails? Because they don’t like fast food! On the contrary, France is in the top ten countries with the most McDonald’s restaurants. Together with El Salvador, they were the only two countries McDonald’s ventured into in 1972. The previous year being very busy for the company as they opened in 7 countries all over the globe. The success McDonald’s is enjoying now in France was not like it was in the beginning, in fact, it wasn’t like it for 16 years. Given the history of the two countries and the general dislike of the French for the Americans, it didn’t help the company when the most famous sheep farmer in the world, José Bové, took his turn in the French limelight. All that’s history now, as McDonald’s has somehow broken that barrier between France and America, now with more than 1,400 stores.
5 Most Sales: The United Kingdom
To welcome the 2012 Olympics in London, McDonald’s constructed the 2012 version of The World’s Largest McDonald’s. It employs 2,000 employees and can accommodate 1,500 hungry customers. This is proof that sales in the United Kingdom are one of the highest in the world. From only about 50 in 2014, McDonald’s stores ballooned up to more than 1,250 today. The city with the most Micky D stores is in Birmingham with 22, followed by Glasgow with 18. The United Kingdom is the only McDonald’s in the world with a Bacon Roll on their menu, it’s like a sandwich with bacon and tomato ketchup or brown sauce.
4 Most Sales: Canada
For the first time in June 1967, McDonald’s went international by opening their first restaurant outside the United States. The shop is located in Richmond, British Columbia, and then 51-years later, Canada now has more than 1,400 McDonald’s restaurants all over the country. Employing almost 100,000 Canadians, and serving about 3 million people every day, the Canadian market is a force in the McDonald’s empire. For a relatively cold country, Canada created the popular soft ice cream dessert McFlurry, in Bathurst, New Brunswick back in 1995. The menu in Canada is almost the same in the US, except their breakfast hotcakes kind of taste better, hmmm…
3 Most Sales: Australia
Australians don’t say Mickey D’s, they say Macca’s instead. Our friends down under love McDonald’s just as much as we do. They have one of the most elegant McDonald’s in the world, the McDonald’s Plaza in Sydney. Built in the same building as the former Plaza Cinema, this Macca’s restaurant is all class and glamour inside. The first Macca’s was built in 1971 in Yagoona, Sydney. Australia also built the first ever McCafe in the world in 1993, this time in Melbourne. Guacamole lovers out there would enjoy McDonald’s Australia because they have their own exclusive Guacamole and Salsa French Fries.
2 Most Sales: Brazil
McDonald’s is #1 in Brazil. It is the leading fast-food chain in Rio De Janeiro and all the other cities in Brazil. McDonald’s has been calling this South American land it’s second home since 1979. Brazilians love McDonald’s, they caught the bug early on. Brazil is the biggest market in South America, and that’s great considering it’s the fifth most populous country in the world with almost 211 million people. Most stores are located inside shopping malls, targeting families of customers who frequent malls to chill and cool out. There are even malls with two McDonald’s stores because they’re so crowded, one store in one mall just isn’t enough anymore.
1 Most Sales: Russia
If Brazil is fifth, then Russia is the ninth largest country in terms of population. For a country that just opened its doors to McDonald’s in 1990, Russia has been a good market for Big Macs and Quarter Pounders. The first store opened in Pushkin Square, Moscow, also known as Pushkinskaya Square or Strastnaya Square, and was named after Russia’s famous playwright and poet, Alexander Pushkin. With 645 stores all around the country at the start of 2017, Russia is growing and has targeted more stores to open this year. They are the only McDonald’s to have in their breakfast menu the cottage cheese-raisin dried-apricot rolls.