KFC Restages Brand in China with New Menu Offerings Promoted by Celebrities; Selfie Buckets Roll in Thailand

And they’re off! While the 140th running of the Kentucky Derby thoroughbred horse race won’t take place at Churchill Downs in Louisville until May 3, KFC is already fast out of the gate with a stable of 15 new menu offerings in nearly all 4,600 of its restaurants in over 900 cities in the PRC.  The chain, operated by Yum! Restaurants China, a division of Louisville, Kentucky, USA-headquartered Yum! Brands, Inc, has also outlined new sales strategies to further elevate the brand and enhance consumer engagement in the world’s fastest growing market.

And not a moment too soon, as KFC saw sales slide by 16% in China during the 11-month period through November of 2013. The reason had much to do with negative publicity about an Avian flu outbreak and stories about food safety lapses among poultry suppliers in the PRC.


“We are excited to build off of KFC’s upward momentum coming out of last year and announce the next phase of the brand’s restage in China,” said Sam Su, chairman and ceo of Yum! Restaurants China and vice chairman of Yum! Brands. “Our menu revamp is unprecedented in KFC’s 27-year history in China, and in the quick service restaurant industry because we are introducing 15 products simultaneously. Going forward, we plan to do a similar menu update at least once a year with innovative and delicious products.”  

The KFC China team developed the new menu by listening to customers on social media and through rigorous consumer research and market testing, according to Yum!Brands. The updated menu features two chicken sandwiches, three rice dishes, four snacks and six drinks or desserts – taking the total number of options at KFC to 66.  Among the 15 products, 10 are new while five are re-launched versions of customer favorites.

“Good restaurant brands know that the way to customers’ hearts is through their stomachs, but delicious food alone is not enough. We also need to deliver a comfortable store environment, excellent service, and a distinctive culture for our customers,” said Su. “Therefore, KFC’s restage also includes redesigned product packaging, an enhanced service model, contemporary staff uniforms, gradual roll-out of a new store design, and a number of digital initiatives including a new mobile app, E-menu and prepay take-out option,” Su added.  

Wu MochouKFC will engage the talents of popular singer Wu Mochou, whose Pepsi-sponsored music video “Live for Now” generated more than 300 million views in China, to help sell its new menu offerings in the PRC. KFC China is also enhancing its marketing communications to convey news to consumers. For the first time, the company leveraged two popular Chinese celebrities – Chen Kun and Ke Zhendong – in a national campaign to promote Original Recipe and Extra Crispy chicken by asking consumers to vote for their favorite product online. The campaign received a lot of positive buzz in social media with over 20 million votes.  Original Recipe won the competition and will remain on the menu as a permanent item while Extra Crispy chicken will appear periodically as a limited time offer.

In addition, the company announced that four celebrities – Ke Zhendong plus Zhang Liang, pop singer Wu Mochou and Chen Xiao – will represent the new Sandwich, Rice, Snack and Drink/Dessert line of products. They will appear in national marketing initiatives to promote the new menu.

KFC was named the number one foreign brand in China in 2013, according to a report published by the BBC.  The company opened 428 new restaurants in the PRC last year, and has nearly 4,600 outlets in over 900 cities throughout the country, which is more than twice the size of its nearest competitor.  KFC also has the largest home delivery business in China, with 70% of delivery orders being placed online.

Yum! Brands is the largest and fastest growing retail developer in China with more than 6,200 KFC, Pizza Hut Casual Dining, Pizza Hut Home Service, East Dawning and Little Sheep restaurants throughout the nation. The company opened 740 new units in China in 2013 and expects to open at least 700 new units in 2014.

ThailandCoversKFCBucketFanSelfies-1KFC’s Happy Bucket promotion in Thailand features photos of smiling customers on the buckets of chicken sold at restaurants.Selfie Tie-ins in Thailand
Meanwhile, elsewhere in East Asia, KFC Thailand has replaced the Colonel with real consumer selfies on chicken buckets.

As part of the Happy Bucket promotion, KFC recruited loyal fans to submit images via social media. The winning photos, which included a mix of fan-submitted and in-studio photography, can be seen on 300,000 limited edition Happy Buckets.

“Our brand vision is to ‘Enrich the lives of Thais with So Good experiences.’ With today’s busy lifestyles, people are often unable to spend enough time with loved ones. We want to encourage consumers to share happiness through our bucket,” said Thunyachate Ekyetchavit, marketing director of KFC Thailand. “This is the first time that the image of KFC fan happiness has been put on a KFC bucket. In this way, we expect to encourage even happier, more loyal customers.”