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Winning the Fast Food War: Success Stories of KFC, McDonald's, and Tastien

The fast food industry in China is fiercely competitive, with international giants like KFC and McDonald's always vying for a larger slice of the market. However, in recent years, we have witnessed the rise of domestic brands like Tastien, making their mark on the industry. In this article, we will take a closer look at some success stories of KFC and McDonald's in China, and also explore the rise of Tastien as a domestic player in the market. We will examine the unique approaches these brands have taken to attract and retain customers, and what makes them stand out in the fast-food industry in China.

KFC: Crazy Thursday


KFC in China has a weekly festival called "Crazy Thursday", featuring special offers available only on Thursdays, which went viral due to social media content recreations. While it was initially introduced in 2018 when the offerings were about burgers, and fried chicken with only 9.9 CNY (1.2 GBP), it wasn't until 2021 that the promotion went viral on social media when a punchline on Weibo sparked an interest. Now the topic #KFCCrazyThursday# garnered 450 million views and 176 thousand discussions.


The campaign has even led to the creation of "crazy literature", which includes humorous and satirical content inspired by "Crazy Thursday", such as jokes, memes, and short stories. This popularity has turned Crazy Thursday into an IP that KFC intends to develop further, with the brand creating posters and offering mysterious gifts to participants. As a result, the success of "Crazy Thursday" has led to customers forming a habitual buying behaviour, with many individuals opening their takeaway apps every Thursday to peruse the latest deals. This phenomenon has helped to increase customer retention and attract new customers, making "Crazy Thursday" a highly effective marketing strategy for KFC in China.


McDonald's: Enthusiast group


As a direct competitor of KFC in the Chinese market, McDonald's has also managed to gain a loyal following of enthusiasts. One of the most popular promotions among McDonald's customers is the "Customised Combo 1+1", which allows customers to choose two items from a selection of burgers, snacks, and drinks at a discounted price. This promotion has proven to be a hit among McDonald's fans, who appreciate the flexibility to customise their orders while also enjoying good deals. In addition to this promotion, McDonald's has also launched other campaigns to attract customers, such as the "McDonald's Monday" campaign, which offers special deals on Mondays.


Similar to the "crazy literature" inspired by KFC's "Crazy Thursday", McDonald's enthusiasts have also developed their own version of "McDonald's literature", including jokes, stories, and even a McDonald's song. McDonald's has responded to its enthusiastic fan base by being active and engaging with its fans, launching its own official memes and promotions. While KFC has gained notoriety for its "Crazy Thursday" promotion, McDonald's has shown that it too can capture the hearts and appetites of Chinese consumers with its own creative promotions and active engagement with fans.


Tastien: The Chinese burger


The Chinese fast food market has expanded beyond Western brands, with the emergence of many successful domestic brands. Tastien, founded in 2012, has seen rapid expansion since 2020 with its introduction of Chinese hamburgers. Despite the challenges faced by the restaurant industry from 2020 to 2022 due to Covid-19, Tastien opened over 3,000 new stores and now boasts 23.62 million online members as of December 2022. Positioned as the Chinese burger, Tastien's core competitive advantage lies in its use of Chinese pastry-making techniques to replace traditional bread buns with freshly baked handmade rolled pancakes. The incorporation of Chinese flavours, such as spicy Sichuan-style chicken burgers, Peking duck burgers, and Mapo Tofu burgers, has also contributed to Tastien's success.


Additionally, with 70% of its stores located in lower-tier cities where KFC and McDonald's have limited market penetration, Tastien has capitalised on the opportunity to offer cheap prices to younger generations seeking a middle ground between McDonald's and KFC. Tastien's success on Douyin is also notable, with 2.83 billion video views for the keywords "Tastien" and "Tastien Chinese Burger". Tastien's popular double meal set, priced at 34.9 CNY (4 GBP), sold 2.12 million units generating a total revenue of 73.98 million CNY (8.65 million GBP).


In conclusion, the success stories of KFC, McDonald's, and Tastien in China demonstrate the importance of cultural understanding, customer insights, and innovative marketing techniques, including user-generated content. These brands have effectively captured the hearts and appetites of Chinese consumers, earning themselves a loyal following in a highly competitive market. If you are looking to learn more about successful fast-food marketing in China or require any other support, please do not hesitate to contact us. Our team is always ready to help.

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