Tuesday, 25 March 2014

Kentucky Fried China

After having visited the only KFC in the whole of Mongolia, it was time therefore to revisit arguably KFC's biggest and most important market........China. We hopped on a train and 33 hours later, we were there - Beijing, where we were soon to encounter the most radical menu item ever!

Emerging from Beijing central railway station KFC appeared to be in rude health. From my standpoint outside the main entrance I could see no less than three separate branches!

What better way to celebrate our arrival in the world's fastest emerging superpower than a visit to a multinational chain owned by its economic rival?... we went in to be confronted by a fairly conventional restaurant, layout wise, but a fairly unconventional menu. Chicken featured, of course, but so did many other weird and wonderful creations.

On this occasion we went for a 'Dragon Twister' - KFC's take on the famous Peking Duck: a wrap including fried chicken, cucumbers, spring onions, and duck sauce. The second choice was a 'Shrimp Burger' - consisting of four King Prawns set into some kind of potato patty; it was pretty good although looked fairly bland.

I should have clocked that a Shrimp Burger meant there were non-chicken menu items available, but what I found in the next branch we visited truly astounded me...... A KFC Beef Burger:

Although this isn't going to win any beauty contests, the six ultra thin beef patties fused together to form one burger provided a surprisingly juicy offering with some mushrooms on top giving a nice extra bit of sophisticated flavour you'd not find in the West.

KFC China confounded my expectations and turned all received wisdom on its head. In my two branch visits I didn't even order a chicken product (though I did try my PA's). Whilst I enjoyed trying and reporting on the strange menu items, to state the obvious... it just ain't chicken. That said, if the stats below are anything to go by they're doing something right. 


To understand the staggering magnitude of this operation, take a look at the below from YUM Brands, the KFC Parent company:

KFC was the first quick-service restaurant chain to enter China in 1987. Today, KFC is the number one quick-service restaurant brand in China with more than 4,400 restaurants in more than 850 cities. In fact, we open more than one new KFC every day in China. In addition to Original Recipe chicken, KFC has an extensive menu featuring beef, seafood, rice dishes, fresh vegetables, soups, breakfast, desserts, and other products that appeal to Chinese consumers’ tastes.
KFB last visited China in March 2011, and looking at the figures above you'll see they've added over 700 new restaurants since then.... a phenomenal rate of growth.

And the list of superlatives continues:

Clifford Coonan of The Irish Times describes KFC as "by far the most pervasive symbol of Western culture in China". This is evidenced by the below picture of a KFC I visited at Badaling, where you can just see China's famous Great Wall in the background:

Ninety percent of Chinese sites are company owned, in contrast to just 11 percent internationally.

In 2008, Novak (Yum Chief Executive) said that he envisioned eventually operating more than 20,000 restaurants in China.

McDonalds, the arch rival boasted only 1705 restaurants in China in 2012 so KFC has clearly stolen the march on its old foe.

Monday, 24 March 2014

Super Value Tuesday: The Mini-Fillet Challenge

80 mini-fillets. 8 hungry men. 1 fateful night. This, my friends, is the Super Value Tuesday Mini-Fillet Challenge. The premise is simple: each contestant orders a bucket of 10 delicious mini-fillets for £5.99, courtesy of the new Tuesday-only deal. Each contestant must then attempt to eat all 10 mini-fillets in a single sitting. Finish all 10, and become a legend.

Last Tuesday, members of KFB and friends headed down to the London flagship branch at Leicester Square to take on the aforementioned challenge. Each contestant had their own tactics, resulting in much cause for debate as we queued to order. Sides or no sides? Gravy or a dipping sauces? Wolf them down or take your time? For an extra £2 you can get 2 large sides with your chicken, an excellent deal which many of our party decided to plump for. Would this be their downfall? Read on to find out who won, who lost, and the unique perspectives of each contestant.

The Winners: Paddy, Obad, Albad and George


"In my hubris I believed that I could beat the Challenge easily, going so far as to order two additional hotwings in a cocksure salute to the colonels undying spirit. 30 minutes later, chewing through fillets that should have been delicious, but by now to me tasted like cement. I may have beaten the challenge, but at what cost? That grim xanatos: the toilet becons me, and I fear it's cold porcelain grip."


"Never before has the phrase 'the sweet taste of victory' been so apt. Having had a warmup session in which I split the 10 fillets with a compadre, I knew that adding sides into the mix would be a mistake. 

The chicken was fresh and extremely succulent, the atmosphere jubilant. As I popped the last morsel into my mouth I wondered whether this would be the highlight of my adult life: will it ever get better than this I pondered? And if it doesn't, I'll die a happy man."


"As nostalgic as mini-fillets are, the eating of 10 in a single sitting is not something I would recommend in a hurry. 12 hours on and my mouth is still dry despite the intake of several pints of water. With that being said, the strips were succulent, juicy and undeniably delicious. Next Tuesday?"

The Losers: Paulbot, Ben Dan, Dave


"First of all, I must give a hearty round of applause to the chicken technicians at the Leicester Sq branch for fulfilling a simultaneous order of 70 mini fillets without breaking a sweat. The chicken was hot, succulent and delicious; and for that, I thank you.

Unfortunately I can award no such accolade to myself. The first 4 fillets went down with astonishing ease and I felt confident about completing the challenge. Fillets 5, 6 and 7 required a more considered approach, devoured with lashings of gravy and ketchup (my preferred consumption lubricants). Fillet 8, one of the largest fillets in my bucket I should add, was a game changer - even the can of coke I had smuggled in couldn't help to overcome my salty stupor. The meat sweats kicked in, and I knew I was done for. I forced down fillet 9 in baby-sized bites, before throwing in the towel (freshen-up wipe) and conceding defeat. My biggest disappointment? Having to waste that last delicious fillet."


"It was, as some-novel-or-other put it, the best of times. It was the worst of times. Two incidents, almost twelve hours apart, yet inextricably linked and bridged by imagery as warm and brown as anything since the last Kasabian album.

Alas I am a miserable failure of a man; my dinnertime prowess rightfully mocked as pitiful by Oliver Manboat Horner, next to whom I had the misfortune to sit during our testosterone-fuelled duel with saltiness. Eight pieces of chicken, dipped and drizzled in high-quality gravy, alongside a minuscule percentage of my two trays of chips was all my light-framed body could handle, even washing it down with a litre-and-a-half of Diet Pepsi."


"I'd had my eye on the 10 Mini Fillets for £5.99 promotion for a few weeks and last night the opportunity to take the 10 Mini Fillet challenge arose. 59.9p per mini fillet is an excellent price although they probably get an extra £2 out of every customer who takes the two large sides for £2. Armed with my box of 10 a bottle of Pepsi and a large tub of gravy I took up position. Two down and I thought how easy polishing off ten was going to be. Four down and i was still going strong and enjoying the intense unadulterated hit of Original Recipe. By six, I was satisfied but felt I still had the wherewithal to complete the challenge. Seven down and I was getting fuller. Unfortunately 8 mini fillets coupled with an article on the BBC website about Bob Crow's fatal heart attack at 52 saw me bow out of the challenge defeated!"