The Taco Bell Rings in China?


Taco Bell is launching in China again – here’s three reasons why it is going to work.

Taco Bell, a brand with Yum Foods has announced it open outlets in China, bringing mass market Tex-mex to a nation that simply loves food.  Yum Foods, that also runs KFC and Pizza Hut in China, has launched a strong comeback since being tarnished by a food scandals in 2012 and 2014.

Currently KFC is the No.1 QSR (Quick Serve Restaurant) brand in China with over 5,000 stores in over 1,100 cities.  While Pizza Hut is the No.1 Western Casual Dining brand in China with nearly 600 restaurants in over 450 cities.  Also recently, Resonance China (us) completed analysis on KFC’s very bold digital campaign that successfully got the attention of urban millennials – a demographic increasingly eating on-the-go.

So can Yum Foods launch another brand in China to the same degree of popular success.
We say Yes.  Read below to understand why.

*For old China hands, Taco Bell had a presence in China with two stores in Shanghai and Shenzhen, but they were closed in 2008.  This feels like more full blooded effort to land the brand this time around for Yum Foods.

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Yum Foods looking to bring their third global brand to China

Tacos are culturally proximate, the first stepping stone to success in China.

The concept of Mexican fast-food, as exemplified by Taco Bell, is based on wrapping ingredients, including meat, in a roll or shell.  Within Chinese street food there is a rich tradition of foods similar in conception, from steamed buns in the North, to crisp meat cakes in the East, to the famous dim sum snacks of the South.

Fast food in China has become overly generic, need somebody to spice it up

Around five years ago, a major headache for KFC and McDonald’s was the rise of Chinese fast food brands, such as Zhen Gongfu.  At the time it appeared this would create a unique sub-category within fast food but it did not eventuate – meaning fast food in China became ‘Burger and Fries-centric’.  In this context, a new format and menu would be welcome to an increasingly international middle class, for whom KFC and McDonald’s are starting to feel a bit tired.

A new gastronomic experience, a strong marketing foundation

The crunch and challenge to keep your taco together, suggests a new food culture.  We are noticing that urban Chinese, particularly millennials, are increasingly obsessed with the textural properties of foods.  In bespoke dining parties, afterwork cooking classes, increasing specialisation of local Chinese restaurants; Chinese consumers are increasingly looking for a new ‘dimension’ in their food.  If Yum is able to identify ‘hero’ properties in their menu experience, this could develop into a ‘urban food trend’ Taco Bell can own in China.

Look out for our SMART TRENDS due for release in May.

About Author

Jerry Clode

Jerry Clode is Head of Digital & Social Insight at Resonance. He leads Resonance SMART, providing leading-edge research, strategy and naming for brands in China using bespoke methodologies. Jerry also produces Resonance's popular China Social Branding Report, a bi-weekly publication covering modern marketing methods of the world's top brands.

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