As Georgia rushes to embrace the West, American-style fast food franchises are trying to make inroads into a country with a rich culinary tradition. For now, local restaurateurs and gastronomers say, Georgian cuisine still has the upper hand. But the times they are McChanging. Sensing a market opportunity, two global fast-food players are set on expanding their footprint in Georgia.
The US hamburger chain Wendy’s will open its first restaurant in Tbilisi next year, part of 25 Wendy’s expected to open in Georgia and its southern neighbor, Azerbaijan, over the next decade. McDonald’s, which runs four locations in Georgia at present, is also expanding; the chain has plans to invest 5.5 million lari ($3.37 million) to build restaurants in the Black Sea town of Batumi, a summer-tourism hub, and in the southeastern town of Rustavi, once the center of the Soviet metallurgy industry. The chain also plans to add a restaurant to the one currently open in Kutaisi, the new site for Georgia’s parliament. The three other restaurants already operating are in Tbilisi.
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Molly Corso is a freelance journalist who also works as editor of Investor.ge, a monthly publication by the American Chamber of Commerce in Georgia.