France's shocking love affair with McDonald's

The French are known for their love affairs -- just take the old joke that a marriage in France often involves three people. The country that gave us fine cuisine and couture is involved in a steamy love affair with McDonald's. And things are heating up.

Monday, a communal "quoi!" came with the news that McDonald's will be setting up shop in the Louvre. Yes, the Sun King's former palace, home of the Mona Lisa and one of the greatest cultural institutions of human history, has succumbed to le Big Mac. This wasn't the first time on the issue that people, namely Francophiles and the French themselves, thought civilization was over.

The introduction of McDonald's -- a symbol of global capitalism and hang over remedies -- into France was met with Bastille-like resistance.

In 1999, José Bové led a farmers' union protest.
His demonstrators caused $150,000 damages when a McDo, as the French refer to it, opened in the southern city of Millau, land of Roquefort cheese. At the suggestion that French cheese be used in the Mcburgers, Bove compared it to sex shops selling holy water.

McDonald's took out newspaper ads to convince the French that they would support French farmers by using local ingredients and uphold France's strict employee protection standards -- it has. The chain restaurants also received French makeovers -- decorated with wood carvings and unique colors. Those gauche golden arches? Shrunk down like Smart Cars.

The strategy worked. Today, there are more than 1,000 McDonald's in France. Chief executive Jim Skinner told Les Echos, an economic daily, the McDonald's on the Champs-Elysees is the most profitable in the world.

It seemed a natural fit to add a McDonald's to the Carrousel du Louvre, as the world's most visited museum's food court, run by a private company, is called, to celebrate the 30 year affair to remember.

For a look at the dazzling decor of a Parisian McDonald's click through this gallery:,feedConfig,localizationConfig,entry&id=717143&pid=717142&uts=1254856509
A McDonald's in Paris
McDonald's had to give their restaurant chains a make-over in order to do business in France. Check out some of the fancy touches.
Andrea Chalupa
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