After many requests from customers in areas with significant Muslim populations, Kentucky Fried Chicken (sorry.. KFC) has decided to open 8 of its 720 outlets in the United Kingdom (London, specifically) as halal-only restaurants. That means all pork has been stripped from the restaurant, in order to clear any doubt about halal-ness. Because of KFC’s high international profile, there are some expected negative reactions from those who fear an overrun of Muslim laws on British (sorry… American) foods.
But this trend has been around for quite a while. Dominos Pizza opened it’s first halal-only store in Birmingham in February and Subway has been operating dozens of its 2,000 restaurants as halal-only stores since 2007. Before that, McDonald’s had halal-trial chicken offered in select stores since 2006.
For the multinationals behind these brands, the issue is not about religious deference – it’s about sales. One look around Britain’s high streets shows an inordinate amount of independent shops with brisk trades in halal chickens, pizzas, and sandwiches – all missing the consistent quality that well-regulated franchised outlets can provide. For most of the current crop of mainstream halal foods being offered, all have been validated on economics alone, with the increase in Muslim consumers far outweighing the ideologically motivated opponents who turn away.
In the end, the free market will decide who wins and loses – and how much halal is offered. When Asda (owned by Walmart and resembling its American stores) started offering quality halal meats at 10 of its British locations, much of the criticism was not from Islam-critics fearful of “Eurabia,” but from independent Muslim butchers who felt that they can’t compete with the big boys. Seems like a little competition might hurt after all.
Zahed Amanullah is Associate Editor of altmuslim.com. He is based in London, England