It might surprise some people to know that China’s introduction to North American fast food was not McDonald’s, but KFC. The chicken giant opened its first Chinese location in Beijing in 1987, and it has been a leading fast food chain throughout the country ever since. In fact, KFC has almost twice as many locations in China as it does in the United States. But China isn’t the only overseas market KFC intends on conquering.
Nation’s Restaurant News reports that KFC has announced plans to triple in size, ramping up from its current 25,292 locations to 75,000 worldwide. In 2021 alone, a new store will open every five hours, on average. Every five hours! Think of how many chicken sandwiches that is! This aggressive strategy is primarily to drive growth outside the U.S. and China; NRN points to Russia, Africa, India, and the Middle East as emerging markets for KFC. The chain has opened 700 locations in the last two quarters. Hustle, KFC, hustle! Only 49,000 more to go!
There seems to be a lot of robotics stuff involved in the growth plan: improved tracking technology will let both the restaurant and the customer keep a closer eye on orders, “augmented reality glasses” will be incorporated into employee training, and Bluetooth sensors will regulate kitchen temperatures.
But still, it’s hard to fathom a world with three times as many KFC locations as there are now; there are dozens of locations around the Chicago area alone. If you, like me, are wondering how such an increase in chicken processing is even possible, you might be relieved to know that KFC is also planning to ramp up production of its plant-based chicken offerings. Beyond Fried Chicken was tested in California locations last summer and is now rolling out to some additional test markets.
“We’re definitely seeing customer increase interest in plant-based proteins in North America, Europe and Asia,” said a KFC representative. “It’s broad-reaching and we’re excited about the opportunity.”