The king of fast food in China

By Xu Junqian ( China Daily ) Updated: 2017-09-23 07:34:25

The king of fast food in China

Fast food in China. [Photo/China Daily]

It may have been 30 years since its first store in Beijing, but KFC is still the reigning champion of the domestic market.

KFC China has been busy in recent months.

As part of plans to refine itself for a younger audience in China, the fast food chain has introduced its black burgers to the Chinese market, renovated many of their stores to showcase a contemporary industrial chic look, and opened an experimental outlet called KPRO.

Unlike KFC's typical offerings like fried chicken and Zinger burgers, KPRO offers a selection of green food including quinoa salads, salmon sandwiches and fresh fruit juices. The restaurant is located in the basement of a sleek shopping mall in Hangzhou, Zhejiang province, where China's e-commerce giant Alibaba is headquartered. Alibaba recently became one of the Chinese investors in KFC China.

"We have been here so long that sometimes Chinese consumers may outgrow us a little bit. We need to adjust and keep up," said Joey Wat, president and chief operating officer of Yum China, the parent company of KFC that recently split from its global business Yum Brands to become a separate publicly traded company.

"With a customer portfolio ranging from 3 to 80 years old, I think every player in the restaurant industry here is our competitor," added Wat.

KFC made its foray into the Chinese mainland on Nov 12, 1987, by opening a three-story restaurant near Qianmen, the entrance to the capital city's Imperial Palace. Occupying a total space of 1,100 square meters, that KFC outlet was the largest in the world.

But the space was still not big enough to accommodate the thousands of curious Chinese who were eager to have their first bite of not just fast, but Western food as well.

"For a very long time, KFC and McDonald's were synonymous with Western food and even what we call fine dining, from the price and brand perspective," said Guo Geping, director of the China Chain Store and Franchise Association.

On its first day of operations, the store sold 2,200 buckets of fried chicken and raked in a whopping 83,000 yuan ($22,300 then). This figure kept growing and peaked at 150,000 yuan during the first year. Today, the average daily turnover of a KFC outlet in China is around 50,000 yuan. The craze endured for several months, with the queue of customers outside the store stretching nearly 100 meters long to Tian'anmen Square.

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