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Posted by: Kenji Hall on November 19, 2008
McDonald’s has sold its Quarter Pounder in the U.S. since the early 1970s. But until a few weeks ago there was only one place in Japan where you could get one: in Kumamoto prefecture, on the southern island of Kyushu. Former McDonald’s officials say the fast-food chain’s outlets in Japan lacked the proper grill to churn out the burgers in big quantities.
That’s about to change. Earlier this month, McDonald’s launched a clandestine campaign to promote the Quarter Pounder at two renovated shops in Tokyo’s hip Shibuya and Omotesando shopping areas. Instead of the familiar Golden Arches the sign outside read “Quarter Pounder”. Inside, the dark walls and dim lighting made the place seem more like a disco than a burger joint. And the menu had just two items: a double Quarter Pounder meal for $6 or a single for $5.
McDonald’s Japan kept quiet about the marketing stunt for weeks. (When I called with questions, they agreed to talk only if I honored an embargo.) On Nov. 19, the company confirmed that the two shops were part of a nationwide rollout for the burgers. But officials refused to talk about the strategy until an event slated for sometime next week. The promotion appears to have succeeded at luring curious passersby and generating buzz online: McDonald’s has forecast a 60% jump in November sales at the two stores, compared to last year, before the makeover. But McDonald’s isn’t hoping for a long-lasting boost. The Quarter Pounder shops will only be open through Nov. 27, and McDonald’s hasn’t said what its plans for them are after that.
BusinessWeek’s team of Asia reporters brings you the latest insights on business, politics, technology and culture from some of the world’s biggest and fastest-growing economies. Eye on Asia’s bloggers include Asia regional editor Bruce Einhorn, Tokyo reporter Ian Rowley, Korea bureau chief Moon Ihlwan, Asia News Editor and China Bureau Chief. Dexter Roberts, and Hong Kong-based Asia correspondent Frederik Balfour.