Tuesday, 3 December 2013

KFC Mongolia

2013 was a momentus year for the 2.7 Million Mongolians on this planet, for they were endowed the special honour of being the 120th country to host a KFC restaurant.

The first branch of the planned four in the capital Ulan Bator opened a stones throw from the central square in summer this year amid riotous scenes, where crowds of hungry would be diners mobbed the single entrance to the modern restaurant:

KFB gave the store a few months to deal with the inevitable teething problems such a stretched supply chain would bring and headed over there in September to check it out.

The store itself was large and modern and apart from some of the localised livery using the cyrillic alphabet there was no indication that you're in central Asia. The tables, chairs, tiles and lighting etc all conformed to the current YUM brands spec.

The restaurant was doing a brisk business with many well heeled Mongolians enjoying dining out at a fancy foreign restaurant. They operated a system whereby you placed your order at one till, took a numbered receipt and waited at another counter for your order to be prepared and handed over. A large plasma screen allowed you to see which numbered order was ready.

The queue to order moved swiftly, and no sooner had we tried to utter our first apologetic sounding 'Do you speak English' our server, no doubt alerted by our clothes and skin tone flipped over the counter top menu card to reveal and English language version of the menu.... a nice touch I thought.
With a favourable exchange rate of 2500 Mongolian Tugruks to the pound a basic meal came in at about £3. whilst not cheap by Mongolian standards this is one of the cheaper KFC's KFB has enjoyed in the world.

However, that was where the so far great experience began to falter. After an efficient order process we were confronted with a wait of 15-20 minutes before our order was ready. I am prepared to concede that the idea of fast food being a new concept in Mongolia (remember there are no McDonalds) could be responsible for what we perceived to be slow service but the frequent glances at watches by other hungry patrons inclines me otherwise.

The menu was fairly limited so we opted for a pair of Zinger Burgers which came in packaging much less red and minimalist that its European counterparts and still sporting the 'Finger Lickin' Good' slogan. When our food was eventually prepared we tucked in enthusiastically, only to be greeted by disappointment.

The burger was formed from various cuts of chicken meat and not a whole fillet. Despite the busyness of the restaurant, nothing really seemed hot and fresh.

Had I been served this elsewhere in the world I'd have been seriously disappointed, however when location is taken into mind with this branch being many hundreds of miles (which in this part of the world means over 24hrs hrs travel time) from its neighbour thus causing supply issues, and the fact that many of the staff will never have eaten a KFC and be unaware of what a really good one is like I have to conclude that this was a reasonable attempt.... albeit one with much room for improvement.

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