What makes KFC successful in China ? The importance of marketing research

KFC, one of the worldwide leaders in fast-food market. In 1987, the first KFC opened in Beijing, then it came to show an  explosive increase in China, by the year 2012, there are more than 4000 restaurants in 200 cities.


The expansion of  KFC in China is not easy as we saw, it’s facing a lot of competitors, one of the major one is McDonald’s,  which is the biggest restaurant chain group around the world, However,  KFC seems to be more famous and successful in China.

what makes KFC more successful , I will discuss it in terms of marketing research.


one major factor of the success of KFC is positioning, concerning with marketing research,KFC realized that the market in China is different from it in the western countries. The so-called “fast-food” in China is not seen as traditional fast food.As a developing country, the consumption power of China is extremely low in 1990’s even at the begging of 21 century.KFC was know as a high-end restaurant ,which determines that the strategy in China will differ from that in western countries.


Dedicated menu 

In Australia and other western countries, there is not much products in the menu,however, due to the different culture and dietary habit in China, there is a need of diversity of products to meet  chinese customers.

KFC China introduces about 50 new products a year to meet the need in Chinese market, which will never happen in the US or Australia,while most of the  products are not in United States . For example, KFC China introduces soy milk and “Youtiao(Chinese doughnut)” in the breakfast time instead of  coffee and bread in the US.In addition, most products introduced in China are from local recipe, and KFC China will generate the menu according to the market reputation. for instance, in 2014, KFC raise a vote online, ” if the original recipe leave or stay”, and at the end , the golden crispy chiken beats the origunal recipe,which means that people do not like it anymore, as a result, KFC China decide to quit this products in China. This is the marketing research KFC used in China to meet the local market.

spring roll   in the breakfast  menu

Another  example can show the success of KFC in marketing research. As we all know, China is a big country and the dietary habit in different regions can be differ from others. People in south-east are in to spice, so they will complain that its too spicy however, people in Sichuan and south-west complain it is not spicy enough.


The other factor of success of KFC is the location. Unlike it in Australia, KFC likes to select location at crossroads, in China, almost all the KFC open in the city center and big shopping center. KFC China did the research that “drive through” do not conform the situation in China, Chinese do not think KFC as a “fast food”, they like to sit in restaurant and  diner together . In another way, people also think this is a stylish way of living.


From the case of KFC China,  we can apply  this into theory .

  1. Identify the problem:   what products are popular in China? what strategies should use before entering?
  2. develop a plan:  primary or secondary data?  quality /quantity research should do in the plan?
  3. collecting data: what information have found inside and outside the company? what products are popular amount customers?
  4. analysing :use quality research and present data to find out which products that meet the market and most profitable products?
  5. presenting findings: draw a conclusion that whether introduce new products ? whether to eliminate existing products?

the success of KFC in China is impossible to clone, even for the most powerful competitor—McDonald’s. marketing research provide data and present key findings for KFC to target and position in China.




Kaiyong XIE










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