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  • KFC is one of China's favorite fast food chains.

  • In 2017, KFC generated almost US$5 billion in revenue in China.

  • With 5,200 locations, China is home to the most KFC's in the world.

  • In comparison, McDonald's only has around 2,500 locations.

  • So why is KFC so popular in China?

  • KFC was the first American fast-food chain to open there.

  • Before 1987, China was pretty much closed off to the rest of the world.

  • But once China opened its doors, and its economy, KFC quickly jumped at the chance to expand.

  • KFC's first Chinese location was strategically placed near the Great Wall.

  • Choosing a tourist-heavy area allowed KFC to tap into an existing consumer base, while also reaching locals.

  • According to former KFC executive Warren Liu, KFC also had a natural advantage because many Chinese consumers prefer chicken over other meats like beef.

  • For many, KFC was the first Western-style food they had access to.

  • As a result, KFC's reputation in China was quite different than in the U.S.

  • KFC in China is more of a treat than, you know, a rest stop, basically.

  • This is Kara, one of our producers.

  • She lived abroad in China from 2005 to 2013.

  • In China, fast-food is perceived more as a luxury, I would say, than a cheap, on-the-go food, as it is here.

  • While Americans may associate KFC with cheap fast-food, in China it's seen as something a bit more upscale, even high quality.

  • When KFC first began expanding into China, Western companies, especially American ones, were perceived as being prestigious and trustworthy.

  • As a result of its novelty, as well as less-than-stellar opinions of Chinese-made goods at the time, foreign products became status symbols in China, and many still are.

  • However, the key ingredient to KFC's success is how they adapted their menu.

  • It keeps what we know here in America, except the biscuit, and then it offers variations of that.

  • They take into account what are the flavors that Chinese consumers want, and how can we incorporate it?

  • So is it offering a new menu item?

  • Is it offering a cup of corn instead of French fries for the kids meals?

  • They don't change the whole menu entirely.

  • It just has different offerings that appeal more to Chinese consumers.

  • KFC's Chinese menu includes everything from egg tarts, to rice porridge, to sushirritos as a breakfast special.

  • Our producer Shirley got to try KFC in China on a recent trip there.

  • To my knowledge, KFC is the most popular fast-food chain in China.

  • It's exactly like KFC in the U.S., but also with a Chinese flair.

  • It has the familiarity of the original recipe with the drumsticks, that, like, I think all Americans know, but also caters to local dishes of like congee and egg tarts that people in China are familiar with.

  • The egg tart from KFC was so good. Like, I ate four.

  • KFC also comes out with new products faster to continue tailoring to local taste, and to promote sales, KFC often collaborates with popular celebrities, music groups, and brands.

  • But with more and more domestic fast food options opening up, along with international chains increasing their presence in China, KFC doesn't quite dominate the market like it once did.

  • I'm not sure if KFC will continue to be this popular in China.

  • So, it was really obvious when I lived in China that KFC really dominated the market because other places weren't there yet.

  • So McDonald's was kind of there but not really, and they were just opening places and this was the early 2000s, but at this point, I think it's pretty comparable as far as there's a KFC and there's a McDonald's on the corner.

  • So it's not like KFC has that edge anymore of "we were here first."

  • While KFC no longer has a monopoly on China's massive fast food market, it's still ahead of other chains like McDonald's and Burger King.

  • And KFC continues to strategize ways to increase sales in China.

  • In 2017 KFC opened K Pro, a healthy concept restaurant.

  • Instead of fried chicken, the K Pro menu features salads, paninis, and juices.

  • So although competition is increasing and the food culture is rapidly evolving in China, KFC is doing what it does best, adapting.

KFC is one of China's favorite fast food chains.

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Why China Loves KFC

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    April Lu posted on 2018/12/20
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