Western Fast Food in China – always with a twist
Last week, the Qingdao InternChina team went out for lunch together in the Marina city in Qingdao. We feasted on noodles, rice, eggplant, spicy soup and only 27RMB per person (3 Euros). Full after the delicious meal, we went to McDonald’s for an unnecessary ice cream. It got me thinking how much western food chains have adapted to the Chinese market –when did they arrive here and what do they do differently?Firstly, western fast foods are still on the increase and the 2014 statistic that McDonald’s opens eight new restaurants a week in China says it all. In fact it is quite scary. Actually the growth rate of fast food in China has been growing more than 6.5% every year since 2010 – Imagine how many chicken nuggets are being consumed every day in a population of one billion…
The first time I arrived in Qingdao, I was craving a good coffee to wake me up for work at InternChina and when my colleague Becky mentioned that there was Starbucks, I grasped the opportunity during my first week. In most western places in China you always see western faces. Many come first and foremost for the atmosphere and to use the Internet and just to relax. For me, although I love my cafes and Frappuccinos, since I have been year for almost two months it’s hard to justify the 30RMB (3.50 Euros) price tag when you are paying less for a main meal for lunch or dinner Nowadays I go to Lomoka (a Chinese coffee place) It has lovely pastries a third of the price and the coffee is still delicious. It is nice also to support a Chinese brand instead!
KFC in China is pretty much Chinese through and through and has been very successful over here. In fact it is the most successful international brand of fast food in China. I personally love the popcorn chicken here as it is a little bit spicy. You would also be pleasantly surprised that they also do delivery here – great news if you are lazy like me! The main reason that KFC has become so popular in China is because the firm has fully embraced the Chinese concept of the commercial-public space.
In contrast to KFC’s more adaptive approach, McDonald’s has long sought to change and adapt the Chinese food culture into something something more similar as the thousands of restaurants they have in Europe and the U.S.A . An earlier adopter into the Chinese market, over time McDonald’s has succeeded in making its mark as a representative American institution but is not as successful in KFC and it will almost be impossible to catch up with them. Yes you can buy a simple hamburgers there, but you can also by rice dishes, wraps with rice, and a bannana pie – instead on the apple pie we have in the UK. Similary you can have normal ice cream but green tea ice cream which is also very delicious. With KFC and McDonald’s the price of meals are a lot less expensive than back home. China ranks around 15th as the cheapest country on the Big Mac Index – so for a meal we are looking around 18RMB (2 Euros); Eat your heart out!
Papa John’s is also very popular here, and I personally really enjoy having pizza once in a while here. Whilst researching the whereabouts in Qingdao, I found a review from a westerner living here. They were obviously unimpressed with the Chinese changes of the ‘mayonnaise’ Some tourists get very disheartened by slight edits in taste to their favorite brands back home. Don’t let this put you off but – expect some slightly”Chinesified” changes to your big brands as they do need to cater to their market here in China.
In addition there is also so much more fast food places that we know commonly in Europe and North America – subway, Pizza Hut, Costa Coffee etc so when you come to visit China, have a look around. To conclude, the western fast food chain has made a massive impact on daily lives in China and is becoming more common place every day. As a foreigner visitor, it may be a comfort to know to your Big Mac and fries are waiting for you but it’s also refreshing that you can go and get some chicken feet from a supermarket 2 minutes away. I would recommend trying as much Chinese food and local dishes as possible, but if you are craving a burger or some sort of pizza sauce there is always something for you.
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