By Holly Dagres, for Al-Monitor. Any opinions expressed are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Iran Business News.
Iran sees ‘battle of the brands’ as US franchises look to enter
The line was around the block. When the Baskin-Robbins first opened on Valiasr Street in Tehran, you’d have to wait a good 30 minutes to get in the door, and even then, you might not get the flavor you wanted. Everything from the sign to the cups and signature pink spoon — not to mention all 31 flavors — were on point.
I had to know its secret. After all, it’s an American ice cream parlor in Iran, a country that hasn’t had direct relations with the United States for some 30 years. “It’s actually Italian gelato,” the manager said, grinning from ear to ear, when I visited the store in 2009.
The Tehran “Baskin-Robbins” was a bootleg American franchise, but, in my opinion, with better ice cream. Surprisingly, it wasn’t alone in emulating American fast food franchises.
Over the past decade, everything from Burger King, Carl’s Jr., Chipotle, Domino’s Pizza, KFC, McDonald’s, Pizza Hut, Starbucks Coffee and Subway has found its way to the Islamic Republic of Iran in the same manner.
Some of the fake franchises were exact replicas, while others had slight modifications, including the names. Burger King became Burger House, McDonald’s became Mash Donald’s, Pizza Hut became Pizza Hat, Subway became Subways and Starbucks became Raees Coffee.
And in all, there was always a friendly reminder that these restaurants were in Iran: framed photos of Supreme Leaders Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini and Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and a sign telling women to respect their hijab.