Burger King, the US-based global fast-food chain, had a delayed entry into India, one of the fastest-growing markets for fast-foods. When it arrived in November 2014, India was the 100{+t}{+h} country where the then 60-year-old company had set up shop.

But once it started its operations, Burger King India, the master franchisee of the parent company, grew pretty fast. Within 20 months, BKI opened 59 outlets selling a variety of burgers and sandwiches as well as products customised for Indian taste buds.

Unlike the BK outlets in the US and Europe, beef and pork burgers are no-no at the BKI outlets — a small favour to Indian religious sensitivities.

And, as a big favour to Indian culinary sensitivities, BKI serves the vegetarian Whopper. This is the first time that Whopper, the quick burger meal that is a flagship product of BK globally and is mostly stuffed with beef, comes in a fully vegetarian avatar.

“We customised our products for Indian tastes after detailed research on Indian eating habits and conducting taste tests,” says Rajeev Varman, CEO of BKI. Varman had, before setting up the master franchisee in India, worked for the parent company in Canada and Europe for more than 15 years. However, he feels that there is a huge market for western food in India, in spite of the mind-numbing variety of foods and tastes in this huge country of myriad cultures.

“The opportunities for fast-food restaurants are enormous in India,” Varman, who is in Kochi to open his 59{+t}{+h} outlet, told BusinessLine . “The huge young population, the increasing incomes, fast-growing middle class and increasing urbanisation tend to spur the eat-out trend.”

He said that though India had an image of being a largely vegetarian nation, the fact is that Indians loved to eat meat and fish. Nearly two-thirds of Indians were non-vegetarians, though many people did not eat non-vegetarian foods regularly. While 97 per cent of the Kerala population eat meat and fish, nearly two-thirds of Punjabis are vegetarian.

Varman said BKI wants to expand its footprint across the country. “If we could open 59 outlets in just 20 months, you can visualise the pace of our growth in the future,” he said.