Near where I live in Hangzhou, a pretty decent little shopping mall opened with a huge and pretty decent Lianhua supermarket. I have lived in that area for three years, and there aren't really any good markets within walking distance, so I was happy for them to come.
It is a basic Chinese mall with cheapish jewelry, watches, and clothes. I walked towards the back and saw that.....
a Burger King was coming in. "KICK ASS!" I even did a happy endzone dance to the amusement of the workers building the place.
Hangzhou currently had two other locations, one in the main train station, which is a sort of a pain in the ass for a local to go to and get food and go home, and another in the tourist area of West Lake. There was a third location nearby the West Lake branch, bu it died and turned into Dicos Chicken. I like Dicos. I did not like that a BK branch died suddenly after coming to HZ, but I sort of chalked it up to having an unfamilar franchise in too close of an area. I was happy about my BK because the other two were across town.
I am happy about the BK near me, but I question why they built a BK there. If I was a consultant to whomever wanted to but a branch there, I would strongly not advise it. Why? Because almost no foreigners live in that area and know the brand. The train station gets their business from foreigners and the huge volume of hungry traffic. The West Lake branch is surviving because it is in a tourist zone, with a lot of foreigners nearby plus more sophisticated Chinese passing by. (The West Lake branch is near some very expensive shopping areas).
My BK? In a crappy Chinese shopping mall. Chinese are not familar with the brand and they know what they know, which is McDonalds and KFC. For pizza, it is Pizza Hut. Papa Johns tried Hangzhou and lasted a few years. Basically a Pizza Hut ripoff, although a thin Chicken garlic Papa's was good once a month. I think it came down to what the locals know, and that is Pizza Hut? Why get a crappy gut bomb at Papa's when Pizza hut will do?
The BK is also in the back of the first story of the mall/supermarket, with Lianhua inhabiting the second and third floor. Mostly, for people who go to that BK will be the ones that will make the journey to go there, instead of people going to shop and say "Hey, let's go here." In the Lainhua, one must go to the third floor to get to the second (hate it, but besides) and upon leaving the store pass by a Paris Baugette bread store (which is a good franchise in my opinion) and a sheet meat pork place called Bee Ching. Bee Ching meat is expensive but it is sooooooo damn good. But people have to pass by there on the way out of the supermarket. No one has to pass the BK unless they want to.
It also seems to me that BK has not tweeked their menu to suit the "Chinese tastes". Ironically, there is too much beef on the menu. Chinese are fairly fickle about beef. At McDonalds, only a minority of their food offerings is beef. It is mainly chicken and pork. McDonalds is good at changing their menus for the tastes of the locals Worldwide (in India, they have Lamb instead of beef, in Guam, SPAM is on the menu.)
I admit it. I love KFC, even in China. But what made KFC in China a success story was that KFC really retooled the menu to reflect the tastes of the Chinese, which unfortunatly means that all the good stuff from KFC America is not sold here (cole slaw and buttermilk biscuits is a real head scratcher. Cole Slaw is cabbage. How in the hell can one not like a hot, fluffy buttermilk biscuit?)
Remember Taco Bell's feable attempt in China? I could have told them that it wont work, because the Chinese do not like Tex-Mex Mexican food. I ate at a taco bell in Shanghai. It was a sit down restaurant with a waitress. Ordered the food from a menu. A lot of the American menu was absent.
Subway is doing gangbusters in Hangzhou. The first store opened around (and I am guessing) 2006 or so, and now about 5 years later there are about 10 outlets, owned by different franchise people. As far as I know, only one Subway died, ironically again, in my 'hood. This was a dumbass location. It was in a smallish neighborhood Lianhua store. It was a counter but with no seats or tables. Basically get the sandwich and go home. I knew that location was going to die because shoppers in Lianhua are not going to pay money for that. They are in there to pick up items for home. I once walked to the lonely counter and told the girl that I wanted a six inch sandwich (forgot what, not important) when I was finished with my shopping. 15 minutes later, there is my sandwich, wrapped and everything. Didn't have the heart to tell her that her work was in vain and bought it as the first customer in the history of Subway to have a sandwich made by someone without their knowledge and paying for it. Wasn't bad. Black olives are still too salty.
Subway works because it allows people to sit down and relax (although some locations lack bathrooms, which is a main reason I don't eat there, plus it is expensive, and if I could buy good bread here, I could make what they make at 10% of their cost, which is why Subway is so profitable.) Subway also does well because of their "freshness". I think the Chinese have also bought int the idea that it is healthy, unlike KFC or McDonalds.
There was a Hooters
restaurant that lasted about a year here in Hangzhou. This is the first foreign business (and only admittedly)that I announced would die there and it did. The food was expensive, and I do hate to say this, awful. I ate there twice, the first was a burger that was tasteless with greasy curly fries, the second time a few months later, in the neighborhood (the visa office is in that area)and got a cheese steak wit tasteless meat and gloopy ass cheese stuff. With 35 RMB draft Budweisers.
I did not have their famous wings, but chicken is hard to muck up even for a novice cook. Cook til the meat is white, dont burn it, season to taste. The girls were cute and all, and they did make a strong go of it, but this is Hangzhou, not Shanghai. Most of the limited amount of foreigners here will eat there once and not come back, and the place is far to alien for a Chinese person to get. Jeesh, in the summer in Hangzhou, if you want to be served beer in a girl in shorts, there are about a thousand different places to go. Yup, it died. Actually some security guard actually died on their property after hours. Opened up the joint in the morning and there is a dead guy. Sort of cursed the place. They said that they would return four years ago, nevr returned.
Not a fast food place, but I would think that China would have a chain auto parts company, much like Auto Zone back home. I think Auto Zone would do great in China. How many new cars are rolling out in China every month? What about oil change places like Jiffy Lube? Jiffy Lube would do fantastic here. In Hangzhou, I have little idea where to buy parts for my car besides the dealership, which is going to gouge the customers testicles out. A 1000 RMB gas cap at Mercedes could cost him 10 in my shop and cost 2 to make.http://www.autozone.com/autozone/
I think I could be of some value to a company who wants to start up something in China and myself understanding the eating and shopping patterns of the local people. My only experience is the experience of living here.
"Shanghai, it smells like fried food and dirty money!"