LESSONS FROM THE CLASSROOM
HBS Cases: KFC's Explosive
Growth in China
Published: June 17, 2011
In China, Yum! Brands is opening a KFC
store every day. But this is not the KFC you
know in America. A recent case study written by
professor David Bell and Agribusiness
Program director Mary Shelman reveals how
the chicken giant adapted its famous fast-food
formula for the local market. Key concepts
• In China, KFC's strategy was to be part of
the local community, not be seen as a
• China division chairman and CEO Sam Su
combined the best ideas from the US
fast-food model and adapted them to serve
the needs of the Chinese consumer.
• Only a small number of menu items would
be familiar to Western visitors—the Chinese
KFC offerings include fried dough sticks,
egg tarts, and foods tailored to the tastes of
specific regions within the country.
• To counter concerns about fast food and
obesity, Su offered a healthier menu and
supports exercise and youth events.
Homogenization has made it easy for
fast-food joints to circle the globe, spitting out
carbon copies of themselves, their burgers, and
their fries along the way. But in the most
populous country in the world, a fast-food giant
stepped off the conveyor belt and found
unprecedented success by being different, not
by being the same.
In the Harvard Business School case Yum!
China, professor David E. Bell and
Agribusiness Program director and senior
researcher Mary Shelman examine how Yum!
Brands, the parent company of KFC and Pizza
Hut, outperformed McDonald's and became the
largest restaurant company in mainland China.
The case describes how Yum! China
succeeded and expanded by staying local on
many levels. It keeps close ties to the Chinese
government, hires local management, sources
food from within the country, and changes the
menu to suit Chinese tastes and style of eating.
A matter of scale
One key issue the...
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