Photo ‘Physiar’ on virtualtourist.com
Long ago, McDonald’s came up with the idea of providing consistent and familiar food no matter where or when someone was hungry. For better or worse, they achieved that goal and others followed.
However, unlike American and other countries, fast food in Greece is expensive and considered a luxury item for the elite, not an affordable option for a majority. This has always been the case, even before recession.
Whether you’re an American looking for a taste of home or a world citizen in search of something different, there are franchises and American-like options in Greece to satiate such needs and desires.
All links lead you to an official site, company page or store locator for Greece. Kali Orexi!
*Article last updated December 7, 2014. However, information in ‘Comments’ reflects whatever was true at the time.
American franchises/products in Greece
- Ben and Jerry’s: Found at Allou Fun Park, Golden Hall, some Ster Cinemas locations, Ano Patissia, Glyfada, Kifisia, Piraeus in Athens; Thessaloniki; and Irakleio, Crete. Note that only 16 flavors are available, so you might not find your favorite.
- Cinnabon at the Athens Metro Mall & Starbucks
(burned down in February 2012 riots and reopened)
- Domino’s: Athens, Thessaloniki, Halkida and Crete.
- Haagen Dazs: Athens, Corfu (Kerkyra), Crete,
Kavala, Kefallonia, Mykonos, Santorini, Thessaloniki, Tinos.
- Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC): Has locations in Athens, Corfu (Kerkyra), Crete, Rhodes, Zakynthos but island locations only open in summer.
- McDonald’s: Once a burgeoning chain with 48 locations, only 19 remain (five only operate in summer) due to profit margins falling 70 percent since the start of crisis and its former CEO/CFO sentenced to 18 months in prison. New locations in Hersonissos, Crete and Spata, Athens were announced June 2013 and 2014.
- Pizza Hut: Athens only, with franchise owner shutting down all Thessaloniki locations. Some Athens locations may close, depending on how many employees voluntarily quit or agree to a 30-40 percent pay cut.
- Starbucks — Athens, Thessaloniki, Crete, Mykonos, Rhodes. Chain peaked during Athens 2004 but has been decimated, promising cheaper cappuccino in 2012
- Subway — Summer-only locations; Athens and Thessaloniki closed
- TGI Friday’s in Athens only
The economic crisis has forced many shops to close without advance notice, and company websites are rarely updated to reflect this.
A location you visited or saw listed a few days ago can shut down and be gone in less than a week. Keep this in mind if you have a credit or customer loyalty card. There may not be a sign on the door to notify customers, and the new owner could gut a location and reopen with no hint of the previous.
Many island locations only open in summer.
- American Burger — Glyfada*; Paleo Faliro location shut down, even though it’s still listed on website
- Colibri Pizza and Burger
- House of Bagels
- Jackson Hall — Historic bar/club in Athens shut down in summer 2013 (Facebook). Article in Athens Magazine.
- New York Sandwiches — Athens. They have pastrami.
- Simply Burgers —
1512 locations in Athens , 1 in Thessaloniki. Quality has been compromised to keep prices steady, i.e., Burger meat has fillers and is no longer 100% beef.
*Rude service when eating in restaurant.
Once in Greece but now gone
- Applebee’s: Last location in Glyfada, Athens (Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare) shut down at end of 2013. Unrest/fires closed locations in Thessaloniki, and the crisis took care of the rest. Kathimerini reported that all locations shut down in July 15, 2011 after 15 years in Greece, but this is inaccurate. Milomel Hellas had the exclusive franchise rights and still owes wages to employees who lost their jobs without warning. — Ta Nea, Applebee’s Squat
- Bennigan’s — Location in Thessaloniki shut down at end of summer 2013.
- Burger King — Was here in 1990s. There was talk about a return to Greece in September 2010 when BK was sold for 3.26 billion, but they turned to Asia and Latin America. In December 2014, a new joint venture announced it would expand in Italy, Poland, Romania and Greece.
- Dunkin’ Donuts — Pangrati, Piraeus and Glyfada all shut down. To see why it failed, see my comment on August 29, 2008 at 22:21.
- Hard Rock Cafe: Locations in downtown Athens, Glyfada and Mykonos are all closed as of 2013. Cafes in Piraeus and Rhodes were unofficial “renegade” (aka, not real) HRCs
- Hooters — The only franchise location in Greece had been located at the Mall of Athens. Not sure when it closed, but its website was taken down early 2012 and the Facebook page disappeared soon after. It had a string of bad reviews for terrible food and service long before. Official Hooters website doesn’t list Greece amongst its international locations.
- Kenny Rogers’ Roasters – Only in California and Asia
- Mrs. Fields Cookies
- Papa John’s
- Ruby Tuesday closed its last location at the Athens Mall in late 2012 (Facebook, Estiatoria). Piraeus and Thessaloniki locations shut down late 2011, early 2012.
- Sbarro at the Athens airport
- Taco Bell at the Athens Metro Mall opened November 30, 2010 and closed August 2012, though its domain name is still active. Like so many other franchises that fail, it needed to charge a lot of money for small portions to be profitable, did not attract local Greeks and disappointed people who tasted the real thing in America.
- Taco Time
- Wendy’s — Franchise said it may come back after a 10-year absence in 2009, but the crisis hit and management shifted focus elsewhere.
Name-brand fast food chains have seen significant losses since the start of crisis in 2009, as offerings are considered overpriced niche items — often more expensive than wealthier nations — and out of reach of most consumers suffering from record-high unemployment and austerity.
Please note the following
1. The American way of food service does not apply
2. Prices are higher and vary by location
– Since these establishments are offering something unique, it’s normal to pay more and get less
– There is no price standardization, so franchisers can charge whatever they want. For example, a McDonald’s apple pie can cost 1.20 in Marousi but 0.99 in Syntagma
3. Menu options will be limited and/or customized to the local culture
– Greek Mac (or other version of stuffed pita), Money Bags and Fanta are offered instead of the Southwestern Chipotle Snack Wrap, Minty Mudd Bath Triple Thick Shake and Hi-C
– Regular BBQ chicken wings are sometimes and erroneously called Buffalo wings
– There is no popcorn chicken at KFC in Greece and Extra Crispy only appears on two items as Blazin’ and Zinger as of 2011. Otherwise, it’s only Original Recipe and it tastes different.
4. Freshness standards are often not followed
– Many places have no qualms about serving day-old, precooked, wilted or stale food.
– Employees at Cinnabon have been seen burning and making buns explode in the oven, then attempting to sell them.
5. Quality of food not only varies between the American and Greek versions, but also between locations in Greece
– Inconsistency is due to the variation of raw ingredients, the decisions of a particular franchiser, staff, lack of quality control at the local and corporate level
– There are three different versions of blue cheese dressing at the Hard Rock Cafe, depending on the day you go; Domino’s in your current neighborhood may be OK, but moving to another area may be oily and disappointing.
– Some owners swap ingredients to save money or appeal to local tastes, but then disappoint people who know the original
6. Beware of product interpretations
– Bagels from Greek bakeries are often doughnut cut-outs of regular bread and taste/look as such. A reader says that plain, garlic and everything bagels can be found in restaurants of some IKEA locations; the Marriott in Athens serves them at breakfast
– Caesar salad often has honey mustard dressing, corn and no croutons or anchovies.
– Croutons are toasted stale bread cubes that are neither crispy, nor tasty
– Everything with peppers and onions tends to be (wrongly) called Oriental
– Everything with curry tends to be (wrongly) called Indian
7. Grocery chains and mom-and-pop stores sell American items, but they’re grossly overpriced and sometimes expired
– If you’re desperate for a taste of the USA, you can pay outrageous prices of 2 euros per can of soda (ginger ale, root beer, cherry Coke, cherry 7up) or 15 euros for a box of cereal. A friendly warning: Soda may sit around unsold for awhile and be flat when you purchase it, and look at the expiration of items since many owners do not adhere to them.
– There are things that never come to Greece simply because the majority of residents and store owners have no clue what it is, are nationalistic and/or not open to new things
– There is no such thing as an American supermarket in Greece; there are only Greek supermarkets in Greece that carry American products (many manufactured in the EU). The rest are considered ethnic food markets or suppliers.
* I cannot give a list of stores for two reasons: a) Availability is highly individual to location, not chain-wide, and can suddenly be discontinued without notice or reason — it’s impossible to keep information current; b) I believe it’s wrong to give free advertising to stores that practice price gouging and tax evasion.
8. There is a worldwide tendency to rip off names or logos of establishments without any actual association with the original brand or concept.
– Big Boy is a pizza place, not a hamburger joint
– Lick’s BBQ in Athens is a not an official Lick’s Homeburgers but rather a bad copycat started by a Greek from Canada who ripped off the logo and menu.
9. Some items are seasonal or appear sporadically.
– Cotton candy, also called cotton floss and old lady’s hair, is available at street fairs, children’s events, the pazari (flea market/bazaar) and panayiri for name days of a church/neighborhood/municipality.
10. Ethnic food is dumbed down
– The majority of Greeks are adverse to certain flavors, so any non-Greek food you know as hot, spicy, fishy or exotic will be toned down or omitted entirely. In a word, bland.
– However, there is Tabasco, Louisiana pepper sauce and kerato peppers (light green horn peppers) at the supermarket, and plenty of ethnic food markets in Greece selling Asian, African, Mexican, Indian and other ingredients so you can prepare them at home.
One must ultimately choose whether it’s worth the extra money and compromise in taste if there are no plans to leave Greece and eat the real thing. I choose to do without or make clones at home from scratch, which takes longer but tastes better.
* Special thanks to McKroes, my foodies, readers and Greek-American posse for their valuable input
Is there a Pollo Loco, Red Robin, Outback Steakhouse, Tony Roma’s, Krispy Kreme… in Greece?
Is it true that Wal-Mart is opening a store in Greece?
On November 16, 2012, Naftemporiki reported that Wal-Mart has agreed to a joint venture with a Thessaloniki entity. No details on when or where a store might open, and there has been no update. Don’t assume it will be in Athens, as a northern location could easily attract cross-border retail shoppers.
Note to all commentators
Please limit advice to facts and specifics. Rumors, guessing or cloudy recollection of what you might have seen many months ago is not helpful to other people, as things change rapidly and without warning in Greece. I will edit comments accordingly.
*The option to comment is now closed due to infighting, name-calling and spiteful notes left on this post, Facebook and online forums.
“American fast food the world loves” — Forbes
“Crazy American things”
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“Συρρικνώνεται ο κλάδος μαζικής εστίασης” — To Vima
“Where to get a turkey for Thanksgiving and Christmas in Greece”
σως γιαουρτιού (sour cream)