Despite slumping sales in recent years in the US, McDonald's remains one of the largest restaurant chains in the world, operating some 36,000 locations in more than 100 countries. And while the opening of American fast-food chains has often been a sign of globalization and prosperity in certain regions, a McDonald's menu can also be a fairly accurate litmus test for the stability of a country's economic standing and food supply. When cartons of French fries start costing hundreds of dollars, and Big Macs are no longer being served alongside them, its safe to assume that serious trouble is on the horizon.
This, however, is where things currently stand in Venezuela, a country that has been battling a catastrophic food shortage in recent months. Last week, McDonald's Venezuela announced that it had been forced to stop selling its iconic Big Mac at its locations, finally unable to procure enough buns to make the item.
The move comes just weeks after nearly 100,000 Venezuelans crossed the border into Colombia in search of food. Following years of near-chaos brought on by corruption, crime, and inflation, Venezuela has been unable to feed almost 90 percent of its own people, leading to wide-spread riots and the violent deaths of numerous citizens.
Now, Argentina-based company Arcos Dorados, the world's largest McDonald's franchisee, said it's become nearly impossible to stockpile enough hamburger buns to make the Big Mac, an item that famously uses a third piece of bread in its middle.
"At McDonald's Venezuela we are working to resolve this temporary situation," the company told Agence France-Presse in a statement. "Together with our supplier we are evaluating the best options to allow us to continue offering quality products."
Though the hiatus of the Big Mac is a symbolic loss more than anything, Venezuelans are still able to purchase the classic Quarter Pounder, as well as a cheeseburger called the McNífica.
Still, the Big Mac isn't the only menu item that's become difficult to find recently. For over 10 months last year, the fast-food chain was unable to sell French fries. Though the fries have sine returned to the menu, customers must be willing to pay the hefty price of 800 bolivares ($133 USD) for a large serving, according Eater.