Western fast food chains try to woo Chinese consumers
LONDON, Aug 22 — A booming middle class and a nascent economy are fuelling appetites for Western fast food chains in China, where the number of foreign outlets is set to break the 50,000 mark, according to a new industry insight report.
Over the past five years, the market for foreign fast food in China has seen steady growth, reports market research group Mintel, and is expected to increase 39 per cent from 2012 to 2017 with a total of 71,964 units in the country.
In recent months, American fast food giants such as McDonald’s and Burger King announced major expansion plans in China to rival the Yum! brand, whose bullish growth strategy has succeeded in making it the top foreign fast food chain in China.
Yum! owns KFC and Pizza Hut, and in 2011 opened a record 656 restaurants in China. The chain now has 4,790 outlets across 800 cities.
But while 44 per cent of Chinese consumers said they planned to spend more on fast food in the coming year, the Mintel report also found a preference for domestic brands that serve Chinese staples such as rice and noodles, seen as more economical, nutritious and flavoursome than Western fast food fare.
In the survey, 86 per cent of respondents said they ate at a local fast food restaurant in the past year, compared with 68 per cent of respondents who said they ate at a Westernised fast food chain.
Recipe for success
The recipe for success among foreign brands? Considering the Chinese palate and incorporating local flavours into menu items, say both analysts and 76 per cent of consumers respondents polled.
KFC’s formula for winning over Chinese consumers, for instance, has been to cater its menu to local tastes, such as offering a breakfast chicken congee (savoury rice porridge) or the Dragon Twister, KFC’s version of Peking Duck in wrap sandwich form.
Similarly, in a country where matters of health are given priority, hamburgers and pizza are considered decadent, pricier indulgences rather than an everyday purchase, points out Mintel.
Meanwhile, a report by Euromonitor identified domestic Chinese fast food chicken chains CNHLS and Dico as some of the top 10 international foodservice chains to watch. — AFP/Relaxnews