KFC: The Most Popular Western Restaurant in China!
By James P. Zaworski
KFC, or Kentucky Fried Chicken, is now the biggest western fast food chain operating in China. With over 1200 franchises in the country already, KFC has overshadowed McDonalds in popularity and sales. Perhaps one reason why KFC has suddenly become so dominant in the market in the Peoples Republic of China is that KFC has modified its menu quite radically to suit the tastes of the Chinese.
I ate at one KFC in the new city of Shen Zhen, and will review my experiences here. I also had the opportunity to watch quite a lot of Chinese television, and saw several advertisements for KFC, who is currently running a very aggressive ad campaign for its restaurants in China.
I arrived in China from Hong Kong on December 23, 2004. After I arrived at my hotel and met up with my Chinese traveling companion, we headed out to a shopping experience at a Wal-Mart Super Center, and she was hungry. So, she decided to treat me to dinner to, of all places, KFC!! A love of Chinese food was one of the highlights of actually visiting China, and the last place I wanted to eat, other than McDonalds, was KFC. But, she wanted to eat there, so I reluctantly agreed.
The first thing I noticed about KFC in China is that yes, it looks the same on the outside, the same logo of the colonel on a chicken bucket. However, underneath this typical logo, there is a second picture of Colonel Sanders, and on this second photo, he does not have glasses and has, shall one say, Oriental features! In fact, he looks more like Confucius (Kongzi), than Colonel Sanders!!! I am sure this was purposely done for marketing reasons. Think about it: McDonalds was the biggest chain of fast food restaurant in China up until recently, when KFC eclipsed it in popularity. It is difficult to put Asian features on Ronald McDonald, and have him still be acceptable. After all, he is a scary looking clown!
The next thing I noticed, besides the very excellent and clean restaurant that is KFC Shen Zhen, the staff was extremely courteous and helpful. There are many, many more people working in a KFC than in the typical USA KFC. And you do not have to wait at the counter for your food; they bring it out to you.
The menu was the next thing I noticed. The food offered in a Chinese KFC is not exactly the same as a USA KFC. Sure, they have fried chicken, but you do not get the choice between original and extra crispy chicken like in the USA. It is all original recipe, and tastes the same. You do not get the strange variety of honey barbecue nuggets, hot wings, or popcorn chicken you get on the USA KFC menu. Instead of all of this, there are a number of Chinese style fast food choices. For instance, you get soup with every meal, ever value meal that you order. Along with this comes noodles and a vegetable that is steamed. You can get bamboo shoots too, with your meal. It actually is not too bad for fast food. They also have other chicken sandwiches that we do not get in the USA.
One of these is a super hot and spicy chicken sandwich, made with cayenne pepper and not just black pepper. The chicken fillet is breaded, like in the USA, and is on the typical KFC sandwich bun. I saw many advertisements for this one, which must be a new product. The KFC commercial begins with a guy in a dentist office who refuses to open wide and say aaaah! The dentist, try as he may, cannot get him to open his mouth. In comes the nurse/assistant, and she has a KFC spicy cayenne chicken sandwich, and the patient eagerly says aaaaaaah!!! The dentist and dental assistant all say the same thing, and everyone eats a spicy cayenne chicken sandwich. I could not resist the advertising, and ordered one of these and it was very spicy, and very good. It is a shame they do not have this in the KFCs in the USA!
As for KFC and McDonalds becoming main stays in the Chinese market and economy, I had some problems with it at first, but I do not think that in all it will have a terrible effect on China. You may get some chubbier Chinese as a result of it, however.
KFC has been successful in China because they have been able to adapt to the local culinary tastes of the Chinese, while also introducing typical KFC fare to China.
McDonalds still has not taken that cue, and only offer the same menu as in the USA McDonalds. They could learn a thing or two from the Colonel!
Web Links for KFC China: http://www.kfc.com.cn/kfccda/default.aspx
Web Link for Story on KFC China growth: http://en.ce.cn/Business/Enterprise/picnews/200501/20/t20050120_2900780.shtml
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