Cheap burgers and fries however have proved more successful at rumbling Argentine stomachs, and both the fast food giants Burger King (referred to here simply as Burger) and McDonald’s have a strong presence. Burger King has 45 restaurants in Argentina, 24 of which are in the capital, while McDonald's has 187 nationwide. However, prices for a combo nowadays reach $AR35 (almost ten US dollars), so according to Burgernomics and the trusty Big Mac Index to measure purchasing power, they can no longer be considered a cheap fast food option; especially for their own workers, who earn approximately $AR10 per hour.
Buenos Aires though does offer plenty of other options for cheap and quick eating.
Street vendors flog homemade sandwiches de milanesa (breaded meats) for around $AR6 while for $AR5 or so hot dogs, known here as panchos, can be picked up at most kiosks, on trains or from specialist pancherias who will season the sausage with more than just the typical ketchup and chopped up crisps. And of course empanadas (pasties filled with ham and cheese or chicken or beef or corn etc) are available nearly anywhere at anytime, individually or by the dozen.
As for pizza, well it's pretty much take your pick.
|Fugazetta at El Cuartito|
But for something super simple and chuff-worthy cheap then Ugi’s will provide.
Since its first place was opened in the eighties Ugi's has gradually turned into somewhat of an institution in Buenos Aires and is even considered a valuable reference when calculating true inflation. Its idea is to sell only one product, la mozzarella a la piedra, at the cheapest possible price, and to do it with honesty. If la grande muzzarella costs $AR14 (current price) then a quarter costs $AR3.50. The profit margin is a low 15-20% each year and its motto is sell cheap to sell more; if its prices go up then inflation is real.
|Ugi's - No a la droga, sí a la pizza|
Once una grande is ordered, the base is rolled out, covered with tomato sauce and a handful of the mozzarella cheese that Ugi's produces itself, and then slotted into the stone oven, all right in front of the customer's eyes. The chef then sprinkles the final product with the quantity of oregano you want, and it's time to shove it down the hatch. With fifty locations in Buenos Aires each selling around 250 pizzas per day, the recipe is one that has been able to hit the spot in a way that Pizza Hut and Co. has not.
That being said, rumour has it that The Hut is planning to come south again in 2011 and hoping for third time lucky in Buenos Aires. If it fares better than on previous occasions then KFC may follow suit.
But until then Argentines will make do with the occasional Whopper or Big Mac, while enjoying all the local fast food that the country has to offer, safe in the knowledge that a life without certain junk elements of US culture doesn't necessarily equal missing out.