MILLAU, France — Back in 1999, a sheep farmer in an Asterix mustache led a small band of Gauls on a Big Mac attack heard’round the world. A proud, feisty France, he exulted, humbled Imperial McDonald’s.
The symbols seemed perfect. Asterix, a French comic-book hero who drew super-strength from a magic potion, saved his corner of Gaul from Rome. But, this time, the Empire struck back.
Today Jose Bove, the Farmers’ Confederation firebrand, risks slipping away into history. “McDo” cash registers at 1,030 locations, meanwhile, ring up a million sales a day to French customers.
McDonald’s France reported 2003 revenue approaching $3 billion and is the most profitable subsidiary in Europe. It is opening 40 more restaurants in 2004, 10 percent of the chain’s new outlets worldwide.
To a young generation, those golden arches in 750 big cities and tiny towns say as much, in their way, as the stately Arc de Triomphe that Napoleon raised two centuries ago on the Champs-Elysees.0