BURGER King is pulling out of France after 16 years as the country's love affair with the hamburger shows signs of cooling.
The British-owned fast-food chain will close its 39 outlets by the end of the year, with the loss of 550 jobs. Last year, hamburger consumption in France stagnated after years of growth. Burger King's turnover fell from 325 million francs in 1995 (£32.5 million) to 300 million francs last year.
Even McDonald's, the market-leader - found recently in a British court to be exploitative of children and cruel to animals - lost 10 per cent of its French customers, half of them frightened off by the BSE crisis.
Burger King said yesterday that the French withdrawal was not because of a popular revolt against hamburgers. A spokesman said: "It's simply that we are not making an acceptable profit. We are third in the French market, behind McDonald's and Quick and we decided we would be better off investing in Britain, Spain and Germany.
Both McDonald's and its nearest competitor, Quick, have continued to open new restaurants and launch new lines in the hope of whetting French appetites. The latest attempt to woo "sophisticated" French tastes was the McDonald's "McDeluxe", a burger in which tomato ketchup was replaced by a mustard-and-pepper sauce. Quick hit back with Le Pepper Toast, an "adult" burger.
13 June 1997: Burger chains agree to talks on beef ban5 November 1995: Burger King pays £6,500 over 'African leader' jibe3 October 1995: Burger King to compensate staff over unpaid breaks20 September 1995: Burger King paid boy 20p an hour