Wednesday, January 4, 2012

McDonald's in China - Localized, Growing, and Influencing

When I compared a KFC and McDonald's in Yueyang, China, I mentioned that KFC has had much success in China and that one of the possible reasons is its localized menu. While McDonald's success hasn't been as great, that doesn't mean McDonald's hasn't localized its menu or that it is doing poorly in China.

Some examples of its localized menu include a taro pie and some different dipping sauces for its Chicken McNuggets -- such as chili garlic. See here for more examples of McDonald's food offerings in China (in Chinese and may not load in some browsers). I haven't bothered to try quantifying it, but my impression is that KFC's menu has been more modified from its US version than McDonald's. Whether that could be a key reason KFC has seen more success in China is another question.

And although the McDonald's in Yueyang wasn't busy at the time I visited, I've seen plenty of others that were. For example, recently I passed by a McDonald's in Hengyang, Hunan province:

inside a busy McDonald's in Hengyang, China

and another in Chenzhou, Hunan province:

Both were full of customers eating and drinking. There are also broader signs of McDonald's success in China. As reported on Bloomberg News this past summer:
McDonald’s Corp. (MCD), the world’s largest restaurant chain, should open an outlet a day in China as it challenges Yum! Brands [owner of the KFC and Pizza Hut brands] for dominance in Asia’s largest economy as rising salaries boost spending on fast food.

“We should be opening a restaurant every day in the next three to four years” in China, Peter Rodwell, company president for Asia excluding Japan, Australia and New Zealand, said in an interview in Singapore today. “We’re now opening a restaurant every other day.”
Even with that growth rate, though, McDonald's has its work cut out if it wants to surpass KFC. Not only is KFC currently far ahead of McDonald's in terms of number of stores in China, but it's likely to expand further. In fact, I've seen signs of potential new locations for KFC that I'll share in a later post.

McDonald's growth isn't good just for the company, but it has benefits for China as well. Again, from Bloomberg News:
The Oak Brook, Illinois-based company has said it plans to recruit 50,000 employees in China this year, including 1,000 university graduates as management trainees. McDonald’s, which trails Yum in number of Chinese locations, moved its China training center from Hong Kong to Shanghai last year.
Furthermore, the benefits aren't limited to McDonald's and China. For example, last April I had the opportunity to speak with these two employees of a McDonald's in Nanning, Guangxi:

Happy McDonald's employees

The young lady on the left was a college student and working part-time. The extra income was useful for her, and she preferred the job to what she did the previous year when I first met her -- promoting a brand of tea at a large park in Nanning:

Green tea promotion

What was most notable, though, was how she absolutely gushed about how much she enjoyed working at McDonald's -- the friendly atmosphere, the supportive management, etc. She didn't think she could have such a positive work experience in most similar Chinese companies, and her experience clearly influenced her view of the US in a positive manner. I can't provide any numbers, but based on other conversations I've had I know she isn't alone in her feelings. This is yet another example of America's "soft-power" that I have mentioned before in a very different context.

So, if McDonald's is localizing its menu for China and is playing a role in shaping Chinese people's opinions of the US it raises an important question.

Should McDonald's ever offer the McRib in China?

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Scenes of China: Chenzhou, Hunan Province

In the previous post I shared where I spent the last days of 2011 -- Hengyang, Hunan province. Typically I don't do two "scenes" posts in a row, but in the spirit of symmetry I'll now share where I spent the first days of 2012 -- Chenzhou, Hunan (map).

Like in Hengyang, the weather was overcast and caused me again to forgo a nature trip. This time I had hoped to see Suxian Hill -- a place of natural scenery and Taoist relics. Again, maybe in another year or life I'll see it.

Despite some rainy drizzle at times, I took the opportunity to explore the city. Some of my walks were directed to places of potential interest I saw on a map and others were more random. One thing I noticed that is consistent with what I've more recently read about Chenzhou was that the food didn't have the characteristic spiciness found in the food of other regions of Hunan. I suspect Chenzhou's close proximity to Guangdong province, where cooking styles aren't known for their spiciness, is at least partially responsible.

If you've kept track of the last 4 cities (including Chenzhou) I've posted about, you may see a connection between them. That connection will provide a clue both for where I headed after Chenzhou and for what I plan to write about in a future post.

But for now, here's some of what I saw in Chenzhou:

busy street and department store in Chenzhou
The department store on the right was very busy on New Years Day

Nearby Xinglong Pedestrian Street

Popular place for Cantonese style snacks
People thrust money at the very busy server to get her attention to take their orders - not my hands.

employees at Bo Lan Yoga Beauty Club
The lady in the red coat saw me passing by outside and was eager to speak some English. So, I went inside and said hello.

Seemingly new apartment complexes. Similar ones nearby appeared to be mostly empty - a not uncommon sight in China.

Some farming in the city

Bridge under construction

Walking in the rain

Chen River

Baby Bar -- No, I didn't try it.

Snoopy by Peanuts car

Fruit and vegetables for sale at a street market

Street vendor selling a sort of peanut crisp

Remnants of fireworks

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Scenes of China: Hengyang, Hunan Province

Like I did with the city where I spent my Thanksgiving I was thinking of seeing if anyone could guess the city where I spent the last two days of 2011 based on a photo or two. Nobody figured out the Thanksgiving city, though, and I think this one would be even harder, especially with the photos I have available. So, I decided to give it a pass. For readers anxious for another try, fear not. I have some other photos in mind to try again with another city later.

As the post title indicates I spent the end of 2011 in Hengyang, Hunan province (map). While there, I had hoped to make an excursion to the main region of Mount Heng (衡山) which is sacred in both Buddhism and Taoism. Unfortunately, the weather was very foggy and overcast so I'll have to save that for another year (or maybe life if Buddhists have things figured out). However, Mount Heng includes 72 peaks and I did make it to the small Huiyuan Peak which is located in a pleasant park in a central district of the city.

The weather also didn't stop me from exploring the city itself. So here are a few photos to provide a small taste of life in Hengyang:

street in Hengyang, Hunan province, China
Ordinary street

ferris wheel in Yueping Park in Hengyang, Hunan province, China
Ferris wheel near the top of a hill in central Yueping Park

traffic in Hengyang, Hunan province, China
Busy traffic on the Hengxiang Highway No. 2 Bridge

young women walking on sidewalk in Hengyang, Hunan province, China
Sidewalk on Zhongshan Street

Xiang River in Hengyang, Hunan province, China
By the Xiang River

playing cards in Hengyang, Hunan province, China
Playing cards

alley in Hengyang, Hunan province, China

Van with Harley Davidson detailing in Hengyang, Hunan province, China
Harley Davidson Van

Car with Hello Kitty detailing in Hengyang, Hunan province, China
Hello Kitty Car

students at a stinky tofu street stand in Hengyang, Hunan province, China
Young students buying stinky tofu

clothes drying in Hengyang, Hunan province, China
Clothes hung out to dry

busy bridge in Hengyang, Hunan province, China
Another scene on the bridge

Friday, December 30, 2011

KFC and McDonald's in Yueyang, Hunan

I'll continue on the theme of bird meat from the previous post, but this time in a way that involves no photos of blood or birds soon to meet their end.

At an intersection in a central shopping district in Yueyang, Hunan province there is a KFC and a McDonald's right across the street from each other. On Thursday evening when I looked inside this is what I saw at KFC:

many people waiting to order food at KFC in Yueyang, China

And this is what I saw in McDonald's:

not as many people waiting to order food at McDonald's in Yueyang, China

In short, many more people were lined up at the KFC. One could now think, "Maybe McDonald's is more efficient serving customers so the lines are shorter." Well, even in other parts of the restaurants it was clear there were far more people at the KFC. While this is just one night in one city, it represents KFC's very successful presence in China.

As noted earlier this year by William Mellor in an article on Bloomberg about KFC in China:
In its home market, the U.S., KFC is struggling, an also- ran to McDonald’s Corp., the world’s biggest restaurant company, and feuding with some of its own franchisees over how to halt declining profits.

In China, KFC has achieved such dominance over McDonald’s and local rivals that Colonel Harland Sanders’s image is a far more common sight in many Chinese cities than that of Mao. That accomplishment is striking in a country where foreign companies often stumbled and ran into roadblocks in the past.
The article argues that part of KFC's success is due to how it localized some of its offerings. This point helps provide a sense of just how much of an effort has been made:
While fast-food restaurants in the West often host kids’ birthday parties, KFCs in Urumqi, capital of the Xinjiang autonomous region that’s home to the Muslim Uyghur people, advertise parties for the families of boys who have just undergone the religious ritual of circumcision.
While I don't think there were any circumcision parties at the KFC in Yueyang (which is far away from Xinjiang) while I was there, the menu was the typical China-localized version I've seen in many other regions of China (read the article for more on the localizations made by KFC or see KFC's products on their Chinese website here). Ironically, one of the chicken sandwiches offered by KFC in China, and not in the US, is the "New Orleans Roasted Burger". I'm not sure what it has to do with New Orleans, but I like it and apparently so do many Chinese.

There's more I could say on the issues KFC raises regarding localization but I'll save that for another day. For now, I'll just be content that I think I've wrapped up the bird meat theme for now.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Bird Market in Yueyang, Hunan

While exploring the city of Yueyang (map) in China's Hunan province yesterday, I stumbled upon a large market area with live birds for sale -- not as pets but as food. I didn't spend a long time there but it made a rather large impression, so I'll share some photos of what I saw. Especially as someone who eats meat, I feel I have an obligation to at least be aware of the experiences of animals that could end up on my plate. (Mild warning: Some of the photos below include blood and bird innards, however there are no images of birds being slaughtered.)

In one very large area of the market there were a numerous pens filled with a variety of birds:

Ducks, chickens, and more...


Though some of the birds, such as the pigeons below, had smaller accommodations.

several pigeons in a cage
They'd probably be happier strutting about in a town square.

However, the birds were not there to mingle and at some point it would be time for them to take, um, a trip:

a duck quacking while on a cart with a variety of birds
I can only imagine what the duck was expressing.

While some of the birds are kept alive after being sold, many of them will first visit another area of the market where they will be slaughtered and cleaned:

area for slaughtering and cleaning birds

area for slaughtering and cleaning birds
Apparently there had been quite a bit of slaughtering that day.

scene of blood and buckets filled with bird innards
The mess and leftovers

After that, the birds are finally "free" from the market:

man carrying several dead and cleaned birds
Man carrying some very fresh food

Most of the people in the market seemed surprised to see a foreigner walking around and a few laughed as I took photos. These people even took a break from their lunch to shout out "hello" as I passed by:

four people huddled around a hotpot
I wonder if they're eating chicken.

So, if you're ever in Yueyang and want to visit the market yourself I can provide general directions. However, given its size and location I wouldn't be surprised if it soon ended up like this nearby place:

demolished land with older apartment buildings in the background
A common scene in China

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Two Sights in Wuhan

I'll use this down period (at least for some people) until Jan 1 for mostly "lighter" posts. Then, back to some topics I left hanging -- particularly, how observing shopping experiences in China could help lead to better designs for technology. Today, I'll share a few photos from two sights in Wuhan I visited during a break of sorts last Sunday (links provided if you wish to learn more about them).

The first few are from the Changchun Taoist Temple (长春观). The most memorable part of the experience was meeting these kids who lived nearby:

three children at Chang Chun Temple in Wuhan
Fortunately, the little girl doesn't need to worry about her balloons not being allowed on a subway.

After a brief chat they offered to show me around the temple. Although I had just finished my explorations, I decided to take them up on the offer. It proved to be more interesting than I expected since they immediately took me to sections that were marked off-limits due to construction.

three children running through a construction area
Running through the rubble

So yet again, by following young tour guides I saw something I likely would've otherwise missed.

However, our time wasn't only spent navigating through scaffolding. The two older girls also took some time to do their prayers:

child praying at Chang Chun Temple

After thanking the kids for kindly showing me around, I walked west to see the Yellow Crane Tower (黄鹤楼), seen in the background here:

Yellow Crane Tower in Wuhan

The ticket for the tower was over US $12. Maybe another day I'll rant about the rather high prices (particularly in local terms) for some famous (and not so famous) sights in China. At least the ticket include the area around the tower, such as this pond:

pond on grounds near Yellow Crane Tower

While there was some enjoyable nature to experience in the park, when you reach the top of the tower and look around it's clear that you're in the middle of a (smoggy) city.  Here is the view facing east:

view of Wuhan from tower

And if you go to the other side you'll see this:

That's all. If you're ever in Wuhan these are two of the more touristy sights worth seeing. And if you're not, well, now you've seen some parts of them -- for free.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Another Scene in Wuhan, Hubei

Where I was shortly before Christmas Eve:

West Street (西大街) in Wuhan's Hanyang District

In contrast to the photos in the previous post, there are no obvious indications of the Christmas holiday. In that respect, it's probably more representative of what one would experience in most places in Wuhan.