In Box

Fast-Food Nations

Six regional chains that are learning to compete with U.S. fast-food giants.

The global fast-food industry is still largely dominated by U.S. chains like McDonald's and KFC, with only a handful of non-American brands -- such as South Africa's Nando's and Japan's Yoshinoya -- enjoying success outside their home countries. But while Western markets have seen modest gains in fast food during the tough economic times, developing markets like the BRICS countries are booming with double-digit growth. And that's not all that is bursting at the seams. According to Bloomberg's Waistline Index, the average weight of men in Mexico, for example, has gone up more than 15 pounds since the first U.S. fast-food joint opened there in 1985. But Big Macs are not entirely to blame. Regional fast-food chains are learning to compete with the U.S. giants and even expanding across borders themselves. Here are six regional heavyweights that may soon be delighting the palates and expanding the waistlines of customers around the world.

JOLLIBEE | Philippines

This Filipino favorite boasts more than 750 locations across the country. But with waves of emigrants leaving the island archipelago, the growing chain is also giving the Filipino diaspora a taste of home with outlets in places including the United States, Vietnam, Hong Kong, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and Brunei.

Local favorite: the "Crispy Bangus," known as milkfish in English, served with rice.

MO'MEN | Egypt

Founded as a single sandwich shop in Heliopolis by three brothers in 1988, Mo'men is now a multimillion-dollar corporation with some 40 branches in Egypt and locations in Bahrain, Libya, Malaysia, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, and the United Arab Emirates. Now the brothers plan more branches and expansion of their other restaurants, including Planet Africa.

Local favorite: the "Alex Liver," a sub with spicy liver, green peppers, and a sesame paste salad.


What started in 1997 as a single hamburger restaurant in Lagos is now Nigeria's leading fast-food chain, with more than 50 locations across Nigeria and a listing on the country's stock exchange. You can't yet pop into a Tantalizers outside Nigeria, but the brand has been getting global attention, having received a $7 million loan from the World Bank's International Finance Corp. in 2010.

Local favorite: moin-moin, a traditional savory bean pudding.

NIRULA'S | India

This venerable chain is actually older than India itself, having first served New Delhi in 1934. Today, the self-described "desilicious" ("desi," derived from the Sanskrit word for "country," is a term for South Asians) franchise has more than 85 outlets throughout India. In addition to its core brand, Nirula's also operates a number of hotels, ice cream parlors, family-style sit-down restaurants and -- why not? -- a cheese plant.

Local favorite: the "Teekha Paneer Tikka" footlong.

ES TELER 77 | Indonesia

Murniati Widjaja began her empire serving es teler -- a popular jackfruit, avocado, and coconut cocktail of sorts -- from a tiny stall outside a Jakarta shopping center in 1981. Six years later, it launched as Indonesia's first franchised fast-food chain and has since spun off a fine dining business. Today, it operates some 180 locations throughout Indonesia and branches in Malaysia, Singapore, and Australia.

Local favorite: ayam penyet, a local version of fried chicken.

AL TAZAJ | Saudi Arabia

With more than 100 branches, Al Tazaj claims to be the leading locally based fast-food chain in the Middle East. Poultry farmer Abdulrahman Fakieh started the first Al Tazaj restaurant in Mecca in 1989, serving a traditional Arabian roast chicken dish based on one of his wife's recipes. Today, the chain operates throughout the kingdom and the Persian Gulf countries, as well as Jordan and Kuwait.

Local favorite: the barbecue chicken combo meal, though the kabsa and mandi (both versions of rice pilaf) are popular too.

Ermelo Villareal Jr.;;; Jacob Abrams via Flickr; Greedy Gourmets via Flickr; Al Tazaj via YouTube.

In Box

The Great App Firewall

Five iPhone programs you can't use in China.

With more than 50 billion downloads of its 850,000-plus choices, Apple's App Store seems like it has something for everyone. As long as you follow the rules, that is -- no pornography (sorry, Hustler), no poor taste (sorry, Baby Shaker), and keep the ridicule of public figures to a minimum (sorry, pantsless Bill Clinton bouncing on a trampoline). But now that China has fallen in love with iPhones and iPads, there's a whole new set of rules for what's allowed. Apple, unlike Google, has never publicly explained its censorship policies in the Middle Kingdom. In a rare example to have made it into the English-language media, Apple told a developer in April that his online bookstore app had to be removed because it "includes content that is illegal in China." (The developer speculated it was because he hosted three books by dissident author Wang Lixiong.) Publishing banned books, however, is just one way to fall afoul of China's censors. Here are five other types of apps that are censored in China.


Residents of China first reported Facebook being blocked in 2008, followed by Twitter a year later. Facebook found itself shut off a few months after the 2008 Lhasa riots, when Tibetans and their supporters used Facebook to broadcast their grievances with Beijing's rule. While it's relatively easy for residents of China to access these sites through roundabout methods -- dissident artist Ai Weiwei has more than 215,000 followers on Twitter, for example -- neither works if you download it from Apple's Chinese app store. But some social media apps make it through the firewall. iFlashMob mobile, which describes itself as a "powerful yet simple way to stay connected" (and perhaps even convene a protest or two) is easily downloadable.


Chinese tech companies provide their own free mapping apps; leading search engine Baidu, for example, has one, and Chinese map firm AutoNavi has an app that provides high-end navigation services. On the one hand, both take pains to expand China's contested borders to include places like the disputed Diaoyu Islands (the Senkakus to the Japanese). But some Chinese military sites are simply blank spaces, and even Baidu's detailed Beijing map has an odd black hole: Zhongnanhai, the seat of the Chinese government, for which the map lists only the names of the two lakes in the compound.


On April 1, Apple CEO Tim Cook apologized directly to the Chinese people for poor customer service, after facing weeks of attacks from state media claiming that the company is disrespectful and "arrogant." Eight days later, the Chinese newspaper Securities Daily went even further, reporting that Apple was breaking the law. The crime? Hosting the app "Spreading Falun Dafa." Representatives or followers of Falun Dafa (often known as Falun Gong), a Chinese religion that Beijing banned in 1999, created the app, which contains a selection of the religion's texts. Two days later, Securities Daily crowed that Apple had deleted it (though many other religious apps, from Quran Explorer to Daily Bible Inspirations, are still accessible).


Pornography is technically banned on the Chinese Internet, though still widely available. But there's no messing with Apple's Chinese app store. A few apps that brand themselves as, um, instructional -- presumably to get past censors -- are available, but they're pretty tame. The English-language "Sex Master" free app, for example, which promises "sex education without censorship," offers nothing more titillating than kisses and bare legs.


Marijuana is illegal in China, though its use is mostly tolerated by officials (if not parents) and it's surprisingly available, especially in the southwestern province of Yunnan, where it grows wild. In the United States, the craving for marijuana has spawned dozens of Apple apps. The Marijuana Handbook offers to teach you how to be a "Smoking Guru"; Weed Strains 3D promises "great tasting medicinal edible recipes"; and Legal Maps provides directions to a cannabis dispensary near you. A recent search for marijuana in Chinese ("big hemp"), however, returned only one result: a children's puzzle, graced with an image of a creature that looks like a rhinoceros.