France’s Quick hamburger chain has declared its decision to open 14 more halal branches in the country, despite protests from the political Left and the Right, the UAE-based The National reports.
Quick’s decision to open halal outlets by converting some of its existing non-halal branches was met with protests from some mayors of cities and suburbs where they were located.
“We do not get involved in the political debate but from the response of the customers we can see that the people like it,” said Valerie Raynal, head of communications for Quick.
Main point of contention
The main point of contention between Quick and its anti-halal detractors is the absence of non-halal items from its halal branches’ menu.
Quick hamburger chain underlined that its decision to open halal branches has sprung from purely business purposes, and aims at catering France’s customer’s base of five million Muslims. Quick also explained that in term of the food industry’s trend that the worldwide halal food market is estimated to be worth between $600 billion and $2.1 trillion annually.
The chain has also emphasized that it has no intention to stop serving beer at its restaurants. “We also have other customers and we have to keep providing them with what they want,” she said.
Also, Quick will offer non-halal burgers at its halal branches from the end of this year but only with ingredients that have been prepared elsewhere and that only will have to be reheated. Bacon will not be on offer at any of the halal branches.
When the chain initially tested its halal concept this year in eight outlets, the Socialist mayor of the northern town of Roubaix, one venue for the outlets, filed a lawsuit for depriving other customers of a choice. But Mayor René van Dierendonck withdrew the complaint within a week.
The opening of the restaurants fell during Ramadan and comes amid an ongoing debate in France and the rest of Europe over the integration of Muslim immigrants and their descendants.
Other politician such as the right-wing politician Marine Le Pen, who called Quick’s decision a “scandal” last week, and who may take over the leadership of the National Front party from her father, Jean-Marie Le Pen, opposes Quick’s additional halal branches. “I’m not Muslim; I don’t want this imposed on me,” Le Pen said.
She has also welcomed the ban on full face veils, particularly the burqa and the niqab.
At a non-halal Quick branch near the Louvre museum in Paris, two young customers hailed the idea of the halal offerings as “proof of France’s multicultural tolerance”. The two non-Muslim Parisians said it would not bother them if the restaurant no longer served bacon or other pork products. “We’d just choose something else,” they said.
At the Quick branch in the center of Paris, Abdallah Elmoiki said he was taking his family out for a day on the town during Eid al-Fitr. “We are here now so we are ordering fish,” he said. But when a halal Quick opened in the suburb of Argeneuil this month, he said: “We took the kids and drove 30km to eat there.”
Quick has also been criticized by some French Muslims who say the chain is not offering real halal. An official at the main mosque in Paris said condiments such as mustard and ketchup should also be halal.
The chain is originally a Belgian one, Quick has 350 branches in France of which 22 now serve halal meat. McDonald’s, its larger competitor, does not serve halal meat in France but the U.S. fast-food chain Kentucky Fried Chicken has served halal chicken in the country for years.
Quick says it used three criteria to determine where to open the halal branches: changed consumption patterns during Ramadan, low sales of bacon burgers and high sales of fish burgers. The chain says it does not intend for now to open more halal branches.
On Tuesday, the French Senate gave the green signal to ban the full face veil in public spaces, although the move could still be overturned by France’s highest legal body, the Constitutional Council. The measure follows the prohibition in 2004 of head scarves in schools as part of a wider ban on all religious symbols.