How Did KFC Become the Most Popular Fast Food Chain in China?

3 min read

How Did KFC Become the Most Popular Fast Food Chain in China?

One of China’s all-time favorite fast-food chains is Kentucky Fried Chicken. Although it’s one of America’s leading fast-food chains, it encountered the most crucial victory in China. Because it gained popularity and restated success through China’s high doors, KFC became a global brand.

Because of KFC’s international expansion, in 2017, they built 408 stores and made about 5 billion dollars. KFC outshined its challenges, and its market target share in this industry is more extensive than most other food chains. So, the question remains – how did KFC lure the world’s most populated country?


How Did KFC Become the Most Popular Fast Food Chain in China?

KFC’s Biggest Advantage

KFC's Biggest Advantage

KFC’s baby steps weren’t the same as any of that of other such multinationals. Until 1987, China didn’t associate with the rest of the world, meaning that there were no notable economic relations with the Western world. So, when the Chinese government permitted its Western connections, KFC had the most vital opportunity to rise to the occasion.


KFC over MacDonald’s

KFC over MacDonald's

We can sense the high demand the Chinese population has for KFC over Macdonald’s by comparing the number of outlets.

KFC introduced outlets in up to 5, 600 different locations across China. With such an unbelievable estimate, it makes for the world’s most significant number of KFC stores in China. After learning that number, anyone would agree!

That being side, you can find MacDonald’s in nearly 2, 500 locations in China. Do you notice the difference?

Fun fact! Did you know that KFC China always intended to have 15, 000 outlets?


KFC’s Entry in China

KFC's Entry in China

Kentucky Fried Chicken officially entered the Chinese borders in 1987. Some would say that the U.S. multinational paved its way into the emerging fast-food industry of China quite early. However, it plays one of the most critical roles in grabbing the consumer market.

  • KFC swooped in at the first chance when the Chinese government was turning its head towards the Western world.
  • The first chance it got to introduce itself to consumers, KFC didn’t back off from a large mass. With a brilliant strategy to start from a tourist attraction spot (the Great Wall of China), KFC showed courage and wit.
  • Because it made there more first than most other fast-food franchises, it became a symbol of Western food to the Chinese consumers. With that, consumer behavior changed dramatically.
  • KFC became an unannounced pioneer for other international food chains to have a scope at growing in the Chinese industry.

Adapting to Local Tastes

Adapting to Local Tastes

Thankfully KFC accessed China with an open mind. Although it was first to introduce American-style food to the Chinese, it didn’t hesitate in tailoring its menu to the regional tastes. This method impressed the new range of consumers, bringing quick success to KFC.

The Chinese consumers love KFC more than MacDonald’s for a definite reason. Because KFC offers more than fried chicken and drumsticks, it seems more well-thought-out and inclusive. Its menu shows the research and development that went behind it. It has a lot going on from congee (rice porridge), egg tarts to soy milk drinks!

One impressive thing KFC pulled off with its Chinese target group is its incorporation of all types of meals and snacks at any time of the day. Such effort highlights how dedicatedly they carried out an in-depth target audience analysis.

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The Unique Selling Point

The golden-colored deep-friend chicken became the Western symbol, giving Kentucky Fried Chicken one of the points for branding in China.

The westernized food and its culture was a new concept. The food, along with the unique atmosphere and the additional free pack of exotic ketchup – Was the new standard of the luxury of which everyone wanted a touch.

More than that, KFC China’s intention with its consumer was to be part of the Chinese culture. Assembling all these, brought a combined USP.


The Traveler’s Experience

We took the time to go through blogposts of travelers who have eaten consecutively in the American, Canadian, and Chinese KFC. They have reported some interesting facts.

First of all, locating an outlet is a bigger deal in the U.S. and Canada. The more wonderful surprise is that the food is more pristine in Chinese franchises. The variety and the quality are unmatched, making it the most critical reason Kentucky Fried Chicken won over China.


Becoming the Norm

Becoming the Norm

KFC China went extravagant with its posh westernized standard. Feeding the demands of the consumer base that wanted to be excited at all times, KFC endorsed as many elements as possible. Keeping a well-adapted Chinese menu, they marked the price high to show off.

And eventually, they shifted their business model by dialing down the loudness. When foreign-owned food-chains and brands of western concepts became the norm, KFC China dove deep into the local culture.

The prices went reasonable, introducing more local food – meaning they took into the same sea as their competitors. With its change of business attitude, the consumer base also started accepting the norms of Kentucky Fried Chicken. It became family-oriented, young generation-friendly, and value-meal friendly for middle-class corporates and the working class.

This helped them to authenticate their USP of being part of the Chinese culture. Becoming relatable was the primary focus of their brand.


It is clear that KFC took up some radical steps and went all-in with China. Ever since the first opportunity, they took up a learning curve and became successful. Global executives should take lessons from how KFC became the most popular fast-food chain in China.

If you break down its remarkable journey, it tells a compelling story every step of the way. Through the lows and the highs, KFC has shown the world how to prioritize the target audience, blending into the culture while still marketing their own product. This gives a fun twist to the whole business goal.

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