Young female employees face no ban on wearing the Islamic veils outlawed in French schools as they serve up burgers that would be off-limits for a religious crowd at competitors Quick or McDonald’s.
Though “Muslim” fast food abounds in France with endless street-side schawirma shops selling sliced-meat sandwiches or kebabs, Beurger King Muslim is the first to clone the set-up and decor of American-style fast food joints so popular among French youth.
And not without humour. The name is a play on both the huge American chain as well as the French slang word “beur”, which means second generation North Africans living in France.
The first and only shop so far opened its doors last month in Clichy-sous-Bois, a Paris suburb of just more than 28,000.
“The restaurant is open to everyone, but in this neighbourhood and nearby towns there is a strong demand by Muslims who are limited to choosing fish filets in other fast food restaurants,” said project manager Mourad Benhamida.
Strategically placed about 200m from a McDonald’s and 100m from a vocational high school that pours out hungry students each day, Beurger King Muslim sports a yellow neon sign as hard to miss as that of its rival down the road.
Inside is just as flashy with multi-colour walls, crisp new benches, children’s boxed menus with toys and a play area at the back.
The menu, like McDonald’s, is lit up on the wall behind the cash registers but the usual coke, fries, donuts and ice cream sundaes come with a set of puns.
Customers can order “bakon halal” – a bacon burger made with halal meat, or meat prepared according to Muslim ritual – “double koull cheese” – “koull” means “eat” in Arabic – or “koull filet”.
“We buy meat from a local supplier and it is prepared according to halal rites. And we verify the origin and content of all foods to make sure there is no alcohol or animal fat mixed in with the sauces or other ingredients,” said a technical counsellor who gave his name only as Hakim.
BKM’s originators said they hoped to create a franchise and set up Beurger King Muslims all around France, whose five million Muslims represent 8% of the country’s overall population.