Skip to navigationSkip to content
Reuters/Aly Song

The South China Sea dispute has come home to roost for KFC restaurants in China

Chase Purdy
By Chase Purdy

Food Reporter

Less than two weeks after an international court dealt a crushing blow to China, rejecting its territorial claims in the South China Sea, the anger boiling over in the world’s second-largest economy has managed to burn—of all things—business at Kentucky Fried Chicken.

Think of it as a form of protest. KFC is a distinctly US-born company, and in the recent maritime-law dispute, the US backed the Philippines, which initiated the court case against China.

According to a report from China by the Los Angeles Times, protestors carrying Chinese flags gathered outside one KFC in Tangshan, unrolling a large banner that read: “Boycott the US, Japan, South Korea and the Philippines; love our Chinese nation. What you eat is American KFC; what is lost is the face of our ancestors.”

The newspaper reported cases of boycotting in other cities, including instances in which protestors yelled at prospective patrons, saying that if they entered the restaurant they would be traitors to their country.

China accounted for $1.6 billion of KFC parent company Yum Brands’ $3 billion in revenue (pdf) for the second quarter. The Louisville, Kentucky-based company also owns the Pizza Hut and Taco Bell restaurant chains.

Yum Brands did not immediately respond to a request for a comment on KFC’s situation in China.

Even with tensions high, it appears some locals decided they’d rather simply enjoy their fried chicken in peace than join the fray.

Subscribe to the Daily Brief, our morning email with news and insights you need to understand our changing world.