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A real Big Mac or just a McFake.

Byline: Elias Hazou

THE RECENT opening of a McDonald's lookalike in the north has prompted a debate over whether it's the real thing or just another outlet in 'Fake City' where sometimes knock-offs stand side-by-side with originals and with 'originals in disguise'.

When the crossings opened in 2003, one of the main destinations for Turkish Cypriots was McDonald's. Now they appear to have one of their own, called 'Big Mac', it sports the famous yellow arches and a menu that is almost identical.

A Sunday Mail investigation into the political and legal minefield that surrounds copyright infringement in the north highlighted the 'originals in disguise' issue but failed to establish with certainty that the

'Big Mac' outlet is such, like 'Burger City', which has been around for ten years and is widely accepted as being really 'Burger King'.

The taste test was also inconclusive but the tasters found only slight differences between the 'Big Mac' products and those from McDonald's in Ledra Street.

An internet debate on the issue has also taken off. "It tastes the same to me," said one Turkish Cypriot poster who said they always eat at McDonald's in California. "I did not see any difference at Big Mac. It's the real deal".

"We looked into the franchise and were told it couldn't happen here," said another resident of the north. "But it tastes exactly the same as McDonald's in Turkey".

'I'll bet they don't do Greek Macs," added a third.

Big Mac's owner in the north was ambiguous. Obviously it is does no harm to his business if people think it's McDonald's in disguise. On the Greek Cypriot side however the denial was categorical.

Renos Andreou, Purchase and Finance Manager for McDonald's Cyprus, called the Big Mac restaurant in the north of the island a "phony."

But he was quick to concede that pursuing the northern imposter was not as easy as it sounded.

Andreou, whose brother acquired the fast-food giant's franchise rights in Cyprus, says he has documentary evidence that the Big Mac is unrelated to the company holding the McDonald's franchise in Turkey.

"The McDonald's licensor in Turkey is the Anadolu Group, and they have confirmed that they have nothing to do with the restaurant in the north," Andreou told the Mail.

Andreou said McDonald' headquarters confirmed the same.

A few weeks ago, Andreou and a senior McDonald's officer (an American) actually visited the Big Mac for an on-hands inspection of the place.

To their horror, they saw that the owner of the joint was using the identical packaging and product names as McDonald's: McChicken, McNuggets and so forth.

"He is using suppliers from Turkey. The ingredients, the bread and the cheese are of inferior qualityC*and it's giving the McDonald's brand a bad name."

McDonald's legal department in the United States has told the Cypriot franchise that they "are looking into the matter," Andreou said.

Asked why McDonald's Cyprus had not sued the Big Mac for trademark infringement, Andreou pointed to complications:

"Because we'd have to sue them in a court in the north, which we don't recognise. This applies equally to us, McDonald's Cyprus, and to the mother company," he added.

He was not able to comment when asked whether it was possible to sue in the south, or at some other venue.

"We shall be looking into that," he offered. "But even if we were to sue in the Republic, what are the chances they would comply over there [in the north]?"

Andreou revealed that McDonald's Cyprus even enlisted the help of the US Embassy in Nicosia. The embassy's trade attachE[umlaut] then raised the issue with the north's 'commerce minister' but, as Andreou put it, "nothing has changed since.

"Now we hear that he plans to open more Big Macs in Kyrenia and Varosha."

Copyright Cyprus Mail 2009

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Publication:Cyprus Mail (Cyprus)
Date:Dec 6, 2009
Words:646
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