7 American Foods Asian Countries Love and 1 That Hasn’t Quite Caught On
Consumers in Asian countries have developed quite a taste for American foods. According to a report from IBIS, the fast food industry generated roughly $150.9 billion in 2017 in China. That’s an increase of 9.6% from 2016. Compared to 3.1% growth in the United States, fast food has also grown 11.2% annually. Which American foods really reign and which category just can’t hack it? Let’s find out.
1. Pizza Hut
The popular pizza chain looks a little bit different in Asia than it does in the states, according to Eater. In China, it features a full wine list and a three-course menu that includes the typical pizza and pasta, as well as steaks and even brunch. Its more upscale appearance means pizza toppings include Beijing duck and seafood. In Fujian, the struggling U.S. chain also makes a popular date-night spot.
Next: This coffee chain really blew up in China, too.
Shanghai boasts the world’s largest Starbucks, at 29,000 square feet and the ability to serve 6,000-7,000 customers each day. One of its coffee bars ranks as the largest in the world at 88 feet, and customers line up out the door to get in. In keeping with a slightly elevated product, the coffee purveyor also serves craft beer and nitrogen-brewed tea, as well as food and baked goods by Milanese baker Rocco Princi.
According to Quartz, the larger stores help Starbucks in China stand apart from their American counterparts. In particular, Chinese customers enjoy the ability to sit down and meet with friends or coworkers, making it similar to a coworking space.
Next: The colonel also does well for this surprising reason.
KFC first opened as the first Western fast-food chain in China in 1987. On opening day, massive crowds bought more than 2,200 buckets of finger-lickin’ good. In Japan, KFC actually serves as a super-popular Christmas meal, after a viral 1974 marketing campaign. The “Kurisumasu ni wa kentakkii!” (Kentucky for Christmas!) marketing campaign took off and today, some Japanese families order their Christmas KFC months in advance to avoid hours-long wait times.
And it’s not just for Christmas. This April, KFC also opened a three-story restaurant in Tokyo which boasts the company’s first-ever, fully stocked whiskey bar. According to its website, it offers a taste of “Good ’ol America.”
Next: These fresh, never frozen burgers got classed up a bit in this country.
In keeping with taking American flavors and taking them up a notch, Wendy’s actually serves a burger with fois gras and truffles in Japan. While the burger does not appear on any stateside menus, fast food brands can experiment more freely outside the U.S. That’s because non-Western palates do not have such stringent expectations for “American” foods like burgers, fried chicken, and burritos. The novelty of American chains meant Asian customers would pay more for them, which led to more upscale versions of chains we know as sweatpants and flip flop places.
Next: You won’t believe how much an ice cream goes for in China.
The already classy Häagen-Dazs markets itself as a premium brand in China, with gold accents and fancy red furniture. “Until relatively recently, people bought foreign products solely as a status symbol, so the more expensive the better,” Shanghai University economics PhD and MBA Antonio Graceffo told Eater. As a result, the chain can charge three times as much in China. We’re talking $14.29 for a three-ounce serving of Häagen-Dazs, compared to an average of $4.87 stateside.
Next: This popular U.S. chain enjoyed success in Japan, as well.
6. Burger King
The popular burger chain withdrew from Japan due to falling sales in 2001, but came back in 2007 to try out the world’s second-largest economy. With gimmicky burgers like the red burger and the black burger, it tries to outdo McDonald’s and local chain Lotteria with creativity.
The “burger wars” continue heating up in Japan, as McDonald’s announced plans in February 2018 to open 200 restaurants in Japan this year. The chain currently holds about 2,900 stores in that country. Burger King additionally intends to triple its Japanese locations to 300 by 2022.
Next: That brings us to the popularity of the golden arches.
After opening in 1990 in China, McDonald’s quickly rose to prominence. Today, KFC and McDonald’s rank as the top-grossing American fast-food chains in China. Much like other fast-food companies there, it also serves more localized options like rice bowls and bubble tea. In 2017, McDonalds sold an 80% stake in its China and Hong Kong operations for $1.7 billion, supposedly so it could focus on expanding both its locations and menu.
Next: This American standard needs some time to catch on.
8. Taco Bell still does not have China convinced
Mexican-American chains like Taco Bell have only recently begun inroads into China, The New York Times reports. The messy, hands-on method of eating a taco requires a learning curve there, and many Chinese palates do not jive with the spice profile and layered starches prevalent in its cuisine. Similarly to other Chinese outposts of American chains, Taco Bell subsequently tailored its menu to foods that have a broader appeal there. Menus feature a shrimp burrito and spicy fried chicken. It uses warm cheese instead of the cold grated kind, and alcohol also appears on the menu.
“Chinese people have mostly admired things from Europe and the United States,” said Darcy Zhang, a food blogger based in Shanghai. “But Mexico itself is a developing country, and so many Chinese people would wonder why they would have to try Mexican food.”
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