Lotteria is a domestic Korean fast food
restaurant similar to McDonald's
. It takes its name from its parent company, the Lotte
(pronounced more like lowt-day
(a company that also makes hotels, department stores, amusement parks, gum, chocolate bars, pork
products, ginger ale
, convenience stores, tin foil, vending machines, poison
gasses, and massive apartment buildings).
Lotteria was started in 1977. It was Korea's first home grown fast food chain. Taking on McDonald's it introduced a line of Koreanized fast foods including its now signature kimchi
Koreans are very partisan consumers, preferring their own home grown versions over the flashier, established American/foreign import. Korean movies out sell imported Hollywood blockbusters, for example. Korea and France are the only two nations where their domestic movie industries out perform Hollywood imports. Wal-Mart
in Korea has generally failed over Korea's E-Mart
. So it's no surprise, then, Lotteria is Korea's number one fast food joint, with a larger market share than McDonald's. Korea again is one of only two nations in the world where McDonald's is not the market leader and bested by a local franchise
Lotteria might initially strike some visitors as a Korean version of Jack in the Box
. Like Jack in the Box, their menu board seems to have everything including the kitchen sink: burgers, teriyaki
, fried chicken
, chicken wings
, chicken fingers
, iced coffee
, baked potatoes, yogurt
, salads, cheese sticks, and squid
rings (curiously squid rings are listed under the dessert menu). If deep fried squid is not your idea of a sweet after-dinner aperitif
, Lotteria also serves up a great shaved iced dessert called pat bing soo
Lotteria is, however, ultimately a burger joint. It has no less than 14 different kinds of burgers for sale: Green Pork Burger, Rye
Wellbeing Burger, Burger Zzang Zzajang, Burger Zzang Kimchi, Burger Zzang Curry, Rye Shrimp Burger, Shrimp Burger, Bulgogi
Burger, Burgalbi Burger, Chicken Burger, Big Rib Burger, Rib Sand, Cheese Burger, and the Teri Burger. The "Zzang" burgers are actually bun-less burgers. Where the bun should be there is a round rice cake.
Lotteria has been at the forefront of a rather amazing push by the food service industry and citizens to implement recycling
programs and other environmentally friendly policies beyond government mandates. Most beverages and desserts eaten in the restaurant come in reusable glass or plastic
. Disposable paper cups come with a 10 cent deposit
which is returned to the customer when he/she brings back the cup for recycling. Customers are encouraged to bring their own bags by charging them between a nickel and 10 cents for a new bag. The goal is nothing short of a 90% reduction in disposables.
The trash receptacles at Lotteria are an interesting course in recycling. Your wax paper drink cups go in one slot. Your plastic lids and straw
s go into another slot. Your napkin
s and paper tray liner goes into one bin. Your cardboard fry wrapper goes into another bin. Ice goes into some kind of cistern
. I have no idea what they do with this water.
The food itself is generally healthier, has fewer calories, and smaller portion sizes. There is no super sizing
in Korean fast food joints. For example a McDonald's cheese burger
has 2.77 calories per gram
. A Lotteria cheese burger has 2.55. A comparable Lotteria cheese burger would have 30 less calories than a McDonald's cheese burger. A McDonald's cheese burger also has a whopping 48% more cholesterol
per gram than a Lotteria cheese burger.
Most burger, fries, pop combos (know as "sets" or "setu") run about $4, with several going for under $4.
Koreans are wireless
crazy and most Lotterias offer a free wireless modem hotspot
. Another high tech gizmo
you find in Lotteria is a wet towel dispenser. Next to the napkins is a machine with a red button. There's all kinds of crazy Korean writing on it with the sole English instruction "press button once". There is a tendency to zone out Korean technology that has no English labeling. You assume anything you don't understand is probably a coin-operated cell phone recharger. However, if you press the red button, out pops a nice warm, moist towel
, a wonderful treat after spending an hour riding the rather dirty Seoul subway
. (The Seoul subway doesn't appear very dirty. It's modern, no garbage, no vandalism, and to your eyes it's pretty spotless. Ajumma
s are scrubbing the stations constantly. However Seoul has a lot of particulate matter
in its air and pretty much anywhere you have air and wind, like a subway station, everything gets quickly coated with a fine layer of grime
In the last few years Lotteria has expanded into Japan
, and Russia