French fast food chain expands its halal-only outlets

Tue Aug 31, 2010 12:48pm EDT
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By Tom Heneghan, Religion Editor

PARIS (Reuters) - A French fast food chain announced on Tuesday it would almost triple its line of halal hamburger restaurants because sales had doubled in a trial that sparked a heated debate about the integration of Muslims.

The Quick chain of 358 restaurants around France said it would boost its halal-only outlets to 22 on Wednesday after the trial in eight areas with a strong Muslim population also saw a doubling of customers and a rise in the amounts they spent.

Quick, which is a challenger to the U.S. hamburger chain McDonald's and runs franchises in seven other countries including Belgium, Russia and Algeria, said the move was purely commercial.

"We're in a very competitive market and we're the challenger," said General Manager Jacques-Edouard Charret, whose company competes against about 1,150 outlets for the U.S.-based McDonald's.

"We are not a philanthropy or a charity," he told a news conference. "Our ambition is to develop Quick's turnover and create jobs. And it's going well."

Asked if the halal-only outlets would separate Muslims from other customers, he said: "To the contrary, this is an opening. It's a restaurant where Muslims, Catholics and Jews can eat the same product without bothering anyone."

Quick came in for criticism earlier this year when its trial, which sold only halal beef and replaced bacon with smoked turkey, hit national headlines. Agriculture Minister Bruno Le Maire said ethnic marketing like this was against French values.

The mayor of a town with a halal Quick threatened a law suit for discrimination against non-Muslims. A far-right leader accused the company of imposing an "Islamic tax" on customers because part of the meat price goes to Muslim clerics who certify it was slaughtered according to Islamic law.   Continued...

<p>A woman walks past a Quick's restaurant in Roubaix northern France February 18, 2010. REUTERS/Pascal Rossignol</p>