I heard on the radio today that 2017 marks the 30th anniversary from when KFC first entered China. The topic for discussion was people’s memories of foreign fast food growing up.
One story involved the female radio host. She recalled that during middle school, one of the boys in her class was rather well off, and would occasionally take all the girls in the class out to McDonalds for ice cream. She said all the guys hated that dude. I wonder why…
But truth be told, 30 years ago, it was a pretty big deal to eat at KFC or McDonalds.
Friend chicken? Hamburgers? It was this mysterious new food that no one had ever seen before. Even the concept of plastic spoons and forks was new. There was a certain mystique surrounding this foreign and exotic food, kind of like how Americans find Asian culture exotic (yellow fever anyone?) but reversed.
But it was also a big deal because it was expensive. This is all relative of course. It might have cost 15 or 20 RMB for a meal, which at the time was probably $3 bucks. Cheap by American standards. But for the average Chinese worker who was making 500 RMB a month, it was quite a bit of money. Usually going to KFC or McDonalds was only reserved for special occasions like a birthday or graduation.
The male host from the radio show also saw a wedding happen at McDonalds. I just can’t imagine the picture above being anything more than over-the-top advertising by McDonalds, but apparently this has really happened. The host said that the couple had their first date at McDonalds, and in a warped, romantic and unforgettable way decided to tie the knot there as well.
Believe me, as someone who grew up in the US, this still sounds like a gimmick, and something I can’t imagine happening in the US other than possibly in some redneck area. But to Chinese people, I guess it seemed like a good idea?
Nowadays, I think the allure and mystique of foreign (American) fast food is gone. It’s not super expensive compared to 30 years ago, and everyone has tried it by now and knows what fried chicken or hamburgers are.
Granted, I still see the occasional business meeting happening at McDonalds (I once saw a guy dressed in full suit and tie pitching his brokerage’s stock and options services to a potential client. Business meeting at Starbucks, OK. Business meeting at McDonalds, still a little weird…) But for all intents and purposes, McDonalds has come down in appeal and it’s place in the restaurant hierarchy is now much more similar to that of the US.
I just realized my title was about KFC, but I spent the majority of time talking about McDonalds.
So in an effort to give KFC some love in my post, here goes:
You know KFC sells curry chicken over rice in China? This stuff is delicious. However, their corn on a cob sucks balls compared to the US. It’s really bland, zero flavor whatsoever. And don’t get me started on their mashed potatoes. In the US, you have your regular portion of mashed potatoes as a side. In China, it’s probably 1/5 the size.
The bowl is like the size of a plum. Maybe even smaller. Ugh, and KFC is one of the only places to get good mashed potatoes in China too. Why do you do this to me KFC???
Haha, maybe I shouldn’t have mentioned KFC.