The move follows up on existing changes to menus in its Indian restaurants where beef, seen as sacred by Hindus, and pork, seen as unclean by Muslims, have already been dropped from menus.
The news follows reports earlier this month that McDonald’s had to suspend purchases of beef in the US after a slaughter house was exposed in a video for treating animals in a shockingly cruel fashion.
Vegetarian and non-vegetarian food is already prepared on different sides of its outlets, reflecting the fact that 50% of what it sells is meat free, and India’s Hindu majority and Muslims can both eat the same vegetarian dishes.
According to AFP the first vegetarian McDonald’s restaurant will open next year near the Golden Temple in the Sikh holy city of Amritsar in northern India. The consumption of meat is already prohibited by religious authorities at the shrine.
“It will be the first time we have opened a vegetarian restaurant in the world,” a spokesman for McDonald’s in northern India, Rajesh Kumar Maini, told AFP.
He added that India was still a small market for the burger chain. “We have just 271 restaurants in India and across the world we have nearly 33,000,” Maini said.
That situation will change rapidly, however, with plans to double the number of outlets to 500 within the next three years.
Following that a second vegetarian outlet will be opened at Katra near the Vaishno Devi cave shrine in Indian Kashmir, which is revered by Hindu pilgrims, with more set to follow.
Vegetarian dishes on offer in India already include the McAloo Tikki burger that uses a spicy fried potato-based patty and is its top seller. Other veggie dishes include the McVeggie. For those wanting meat there are chicken burgers such as the Maharaja Mac or the Fillet o-Fish.