Knock-off Culture Claims In-N-Out

As everybody knows, China is full of knock-offs. Intellectual Property is a mere suggestion to the way business is done here. Nothing is sacred. The culture of shanzhai (山寨) produces knock-offs resulting in the horrifying (fake beef), the poisonous (clenbuterol pork) or the weird (Huaxi Village, which knocks off famous cities, even Chinees ones).

One of the more extreme examples recently was the discovery of knock-off toilet paper in Beijing:

The phony toilet paper, sold under the name of the major toilet paper brand Xue Zhu, contained visible chaff and its wrapping was flimsy. The quality of the fake toilet paper led many to question if it is actually hygienic at all.

This summer, the expat community was aflutter with the news that In-N-Out Burger might be coming to Shanghai after seeing an advertisement on the streets of the city:

from reddit

Calls to the company offices in California yielded information that the burger franchise (which hasn’t even expanded east of Colorado) is definitely not coming to China. It probably had something to do with their unwillingness to use fake beef. It was later discovered that the ad was evidence In-N-Out had merely fallen victim to the gorwing knock-off culture prevalent in China.

Caliburger, as the knock-off is called, was started by Americans who want to bring the taste of the West to the east. They plan expand to through China to Korea and Russia as well. They’ve “copyrighted” Double-Double, Animal Style and the motto, “Quality You Can Taste” in several countries outside the United States and their website implies they plan to copy the famous red and white tiled color scheme of the original.

The menu looks nearly identical to that of the real In-N-Out with prices a bit higher than that of the actual In-N-Out.  One major difference  is the availability of alcohol. California wine and bourbon-laced milkshakes, which would be an anathema to scripture-laden paper cups of the original, are slated to be sold.

In a breathless interview with Shanghai Talk Magazine the CaliBurger team said they “innovate” the In-N-Out burger by copying it:

Our goal is to actually have an innovative – I don’t wanna say better – product that will be inspired by In-N-Out, but there’s some originality and innovation on how they’re made and offered.

However, the real In-N-Out did make a stopover to Shanghai this week to conduct “soft market research” by bringing beef, cooks and other essentials for a one-off tasting:

Sasha’s leased out its garden to a predominant PR company strictly for invited guests, local and western media and the such like for the purposes of In n Out to “soft market research” the In N Out brand.

Photos of the event can be found at SeriousEats.

Knock-offs will likely continue to happen, even despite serious objections of foreign companies and claims by the Chinese government of severe crackdowns.

This particular shanazhai product will likely draw enough homesick West Coast Americans and curious passer-bys to keep it afloat and continue the vicious cycle. However, this writer hopes someone will soon find “inspiration” from Chipotle.

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