The chicken itself has been a problem for Yum Brands in China, where the company has struggled with an antibiotic-tainted poultry scandal and lingering fears about bird flu. So the company’s new focus for its its Chinese KFC chain is on wooden furniture, soft low-hanging lighting, and free wifi to encourage people to linger over their meals.
The campaign is part of a new “dining room” concept, an approach that’s more similar to Starbucks than KFC’s traditional focus on serving fast, inexpensive food. “The new designs will offer more quality service and a comfortable environment for social interaction and business meetings,” Su Jingshi, the chairman and CEO of Yum Brands in China, told China Daily last week, as 130 KFCs around the country unveiled the new design.
Here are photos of the new “dining room” look, from KFC’s Weibo account (registration required):
China, home to over 4,600 KFC outlets, is the company’s biggest market and recently, its most difficult. Sales at Yum’s China restaurants, which also include Pizza Hut, were down 4% for all of 2013 from a year earlier, compared with 20% year-on-year growth in 2012.
No wonder the company wants to focus less on chicken and more on wifi. Su says the idea is to create a space for diners to eat, hang out with friends, or surf online without being interrupted. Today, the chain posted a photo of a sunnily lit, long wooden table and the words, “Already frazzled in the morning? Come to KFC, calm your heart, and take a little bit of the speed out of this fast-turning world.”
The new move makes sense given that Chinese students and young professionals have a dearth of places to hang out. Students already crowd McDonald’s to study, and one of Starbucks’ flagship cafes in Beijing is a 24-hour, lounge-like cafe that caters to young people who stay until the early morning.