One of America’s first fast-food restaurants is taking a plunge into the Chinese market, bringing with it the cult-classic square hamburgers that made it famous.
White Castle has opened two locations in Shanghai, along the popular Nanjing Road shopping district, according to The Wall Street Journal (paywall). Like McDonald’s, KFC, and Pizza Hut, the chain is betting it will find success with Chinese consumers who, in recent years, have been eating more beef.
And like those Western chains, Columbus, Ohio-based White Castle is offering extra menu items tailored to the region. Eaters will find the chain’s classic french fries and mini-burgers—which Time magazine ranked America’s most influential—but also spicy tofu burgers, and cherry duck sliders.
And don’t expect to walk into a familiar White Castle. These are fancier fast-food joints, complete with wood-paneled walls, dim lighting, and cushy booths. Even the food is slightly more expensive. Consumers in the US spend about 80 cents for a single White Castle burger, whereas in China the cost is set at about $1.99.
It’s just the latest experiment in a foreign market by White Castle, which did not find much success in the 1980s and 1990s with stores in Singapore, Malaysia, and Japan. China won’t be any easier, especially with already-established Western competitors. Still, White Castle offers a novelty that other chains can’t boast—after all, Harold and Kumar went to White Castle, not McDonald’s. The trick will be to make sure that novelty doesn’t wear off.