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Hold the Mayo, and Burger King, Too

An English town gives short shrift to American short-order food chains.

Britain's wartime leader Winston Churchill swore to fight invaders in the streets and on the beaches, and told Hitler, "We shall never surrender."

Here, in this resort town on England's south coast, a new cry of defiance is heard in cafes and other places where the 67,000 inhabitants like to drop in for a bite to eat and a cup of tea.

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But this time, fears are not about the imminent arrival of hostile troops. The perceived enemy is now Big Macs and other fast-food burgers believed to be poised to overrun Hove some time soon.

Hove, with its quiet lanes, prim bungalows, and air of middle-class gentility, is one of the last British towns of any size to resist American-style fast-food restaurants.

Its main street has pizza parlors and a galaxy of other restaurants offering a choice of French, Italian, Tex-Mex, Japanese, and of course English food. But of McDonald's golden arches or Burger King's bun-shaped emblem there is no trace.

Francis Incurvaja, a cook in Floriana's restaurant near the seafront, says he supports a campaign by local restaurateurs "to keep Hove burger-free."

"I can see no reason why locals should want to abandon traditional English fare," he says, as he keeps one eye on a pan of fried eggs and bacon and the other on a pan of sizzling chips. (Mr. Incurvaja eschews the American term "fries.")

Patrons of other food establishments in Hove take much the same view.

Mary Rice, tucking into a ham sandwich in homey Blossoms cafe, says, "I live in London where you find McDonaldses' and Burger Kings everywhere. I find they're impersonal and too rushed.

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"They're cheap, but the service can be terrible. I agree with the residents - there is no valid argument for them coming here."

Opponents of a fast-food invasion may yet have to reckon with the sheer momentum of the tidal wave that so far has swept 1,300 American-style burger joints into British towns in the past 12 years.

In Brighton, another seaside resort just a few miles away, there are already three McDonaldses' and two Burger Kings. That means the enemy is getting very close indeed.

Hove began to get serious about erecting a barrier against Big Macs and Whoppers in the same week that the two biggest fast-food chains unveiled plans to build 355 new burger bars in Britain over the next three years.

Ivor Caplin, a member of Parliament and a former leader of the local town council, doubts whether Hove will be able to remain burger-free for much longer.

"Probably at least one of the chains will seek a site in the next few months," Caplin says. "There is certainly a case for saying Hove could do with the jobs a burger bar would bring. We have very high unemployment among young people."

He adds, "I don't think burger bars would harm Hove."

Local adults who remain hostile to the bright lights and bustle of fast-food establishments face another problem. The town's children and teenagers may turn out to be the burger chains' staunchest allies.

Walking past a take-out restaurant on Church Road, a mother with two young sons in tow was heard to say: "Do you feel like a shish kebab sandwich, boys?"

One of her offspring shook his head and politely replied: "No thanks, Mum." His more aggressive brother fixed her with a steely glare and asked, "Why can't we have a quarter pounder?"

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