Top 10 Untold Truths of McDonald’s in China
Since setting up the first McDonald’s in Shenzhen, China in 1990, the Western restaurant chain has been expanding steadily across the country. Normally, Chinese cuisine has a very rich, diverse and specific culinary taste so it is a little surprising that McDonald’s is as popular as it is amongst the Chinese people. It is no surprise that it is usually the first place expats go to eat since it’s the closest thing to what feels like home when you land in China. Taste, convenience, cleanliness and price are very important for Chinese people. So, to meet these consumer desires, McDonald’s provides a twist on the burgers and fries with Chinese flavours, multiple locations, hand sanitizers and a clean atmosphere at the restaurants and reasonable pricing. With this McD’s quickly won over the local consumers as well as its Ronald McDonald clown, Big Mac and McFlurry. Although McD’s has some competition with KFC because they are the two top grossing fast food chains in China, McD’s Golden Arches has become recognizable from far and is regularly filled with customers.
10. It’s Fast
As we know Mcdonald’s is a popular fast-food chain and as characterized in its name, the food is fast. The fact that its fast means its a time saver and that is an appealing part of fast food for those living a fast-paced modern day lifestyle. This is even more true for the younger generation in China, including teenagers and young adults. McDonald’s offers food that the Chinese enjoy and it’s quick! Offering them an efficient way to eat without wasting any time waiting in long lineups to get seated or needing to choose from a vast menu, choices, choices, choices! One thing the Chinese value is saving time and efficiency. This is because it is highly important for them to devote as much energy as they can into their work so that they can focus on increasing their wages and being a valuable member of their society. Busy fast paced work is part of their everyday life, some even LIVE at their work! So fast and convenient food is something they appreciate and opt for, so Mickey D’s here they come.
9. Food Quality
McDonald’s consistently makes the same quality of delicious burgers, crispy French fries, chicken nuggets and ice creams. Consistency with food resonates with people and is in popular demand in China. When you walk up to those glowing arches you know what you’ll be getting even before you walk through the doors, people like that. The McD’s menu here has been adapted to include foods and flavours for local tastes to satisfy customers. Smart move for McD’s to create recipes according to the Chinese taste and keeping the food consistent and good tasting because it makes it more marketable in China. As Chinese consumers earn more discretionary income, they want and seek out the quality, brand, convenience and service associated with Western brands. They have done a good job at filling a niche for those wanting appetizing food at decent prices in a clean, inviting atmosphere.
8. It’s Cheap
We are all familiar with the saying you are what you eat so don’t eat food that’s easy, fast and cheap but in China its the opposite. They want to eat food that’s easy, fast and cheap just not FAKE! Not everyone’s salaries in China allow them to enjoy luxurious Western products or restaurants so the fact that McDonald’s is cheap people love it! Mickey D’s offers reasonable pricing for their menu items and cheaper than most Western restaurants in the cities. Not only is it Western and a brand they trust but they can afford to go there to get a Big Mac with curly fries or a teriyaki chicken rice bowl with a bubble tea. It is very similar in price compared to what you can get for lunch or dinner if you were to go for traditional Chinese food. The cost of a hamburger is around 12 yuan, 7 for fries, and a drink costs about 8 or 9 yuan. You can get a meal combo for about 40 yuan which would include a burger, fries, drink and a side like corn or fried chicken. Whereas rice or noodle, dishes will cost anywhere from 20-40 yuan per dish depending on where you go. But if you go for traditional hot pot in China you can spend up to 80 yuan per person. So, in some ways it Mickey D’s can be the cheaper option but it all depends on what the Chinese are craving that day and people are also willing to spend a bit more in these fast food restaurants than their local ones because of the general concern for food safety that seems to be becoming increasingly important to a relatively large portion of the population.
7. Free Wifi & Phone Charging
As a population that is dependent and glued to their phones, wifi and phone charges are important! The fact that there are free wifi and smartphone charging options at McDonald’s has increased their popularity. Many people are addicted to mobile phones but the rate at which smartphones are increasingly occupying people’s time in China is continuously growing. This is because you can use your phone here for just about everything! Communication with friends and family, paying rent, ordering groceries, paying for your order at Mickey D’s and about anything else you can think of! According to a 2017 survey of China’s mobile phone users, it was reported that social apps are most frequently used. The stats were high, to say the least, ninety-three percent of respondents admitted they use WeChat daily, 77 percent use QQ regularly and 56 percent use Weibo daily as well. You know people are addicted to their phone in China when the metro repeats messages like “for your safety, we would like to remind you to not to pay attention to your phone as your walking”. Needless to say, if there’s free wifi, you can charge your phone and eat all at the same time, it’s the ultimate 3 in 1 combo and yes we would like fries with that!
6. McDonald’s Food Makes People Want To Eat
It started with plain old curiosity and sooner than later the popularization of fast food restaurants like McDonald’s in China turned into a habit. But the Ronald McDonald brand realized they need to adapt to this culture and made food that’s just as good and addictive as the American stuff but adapted to the local food too. This localization of a Western brand has made fast food eaters in China feel like they are part of a bigger community while also enjoying their regional tastes. Mickey D’s makes the food taste as good as they can for as little cost to get people coming back for more and more. When the well known golden arches started to get the reputation as ‘unhealthy,’ they revamped their menu, added in a salad line and customized to local tastes. They included things like rice dishes, corn on the side or coleslaw to make themselves “healthier”. So, because McDonald’s is extremely responsive to their customers wants and needs their food and service has people coming back for more on a regular. Not only that but they have also gained the trust of the Chinese people as a restaurant they can receive legitimate food from.
5. Franchise Business Model
McDonald’s has spread its golden arches through China not by selling addictive burgers and sprinkling fairy dust but by selling franchises! This strategy plays a major role in the company’s global success, especially in CHINA. The franchise-type business helps the company achieve rapid growth and it also helps them to outrun their competitors like KFC. McDonald’s operational capability and current management have made it a popular investment in China. McDonald’s strategizes with this and always hires local managers, who understand the needs and wishes of local people. Since the population is highly concentrated across all of China from Beijing to Guangzhou and Shanghai they have been very proficient at securing prime real estate in these cities. The brand has over 2,400 locations across the country. Getting locations popping up in these popular and highly populated cities gets them more exposure, more traffic and therefore continuously increasing the McD’s business. In China, US franchises have a lot of potential because they bring a complete business system, management processes, job training and Westen demands. Another thing about China is the cities are divided into tiers; first, second and third-tier cities. First-tier cities are very developed, business-friendly, and have many internationally standard amenities but real estate costs are very high for these reasons. These cities are generally where McDonald’s sets up shop. Second-tier cities have millions of potential consumers and have lower labour and real estate costs. These second-tier, as well as third-tier cities, are open to franchising! This gives good ol’ Mickey D’s a huge advantage and adds to our point how this western brand is cheap or reasonably priced enough where almost anyone can come in for a meal.
4. Children’s Paradise
As we all know McDonald’s is quite kid friendly and they love to head over to Mickey D’s to get a free toy with their happy meal. From Minions to Hello Kitty the Chinese children love the extra treat they get with their meal that is endless fun during their visit. Each McDonald’s location in Beijing has fun and special spaces just for kids called “children’s paradise”. This is a play space that has a giant playground with different equipment and serves almost as a type of schoolyard. It is a place where children can enjoy other children before or after their meals or a place to come interact after school. China has over 300 million young people and McDonald’s is appealing to them through their reference to education as well as space where they can spend quality family time. For education, McD’s also sponsors essay competitions and awards for academic achievements in China. Not only that but they also host outdoor events with the Ronald McDonald clown and fun activities! Sounds like McDonald’s is too cool for school!
3. Green Tea Matcha Ice Cream
China specializes in eating strange snacks, junk food and street food. They are also known as traditional tea drinkers, especially green tea! In the last couple of decades, they have also been experimenting with Asian flavour versions of well known Western Brands like Oreos and Lays. It is not uncommon to find wasabi, green tea or weird meat flavours of these Western brands and the McDonald’s ice cream options are one of them! They love their green tea as a traditionally tea-drinking culture so naturally, they love the flavour. Mickey D’s in China introduced the Matcha cone, Matcha McFlurry with mini Oreos and a Matcha Sundae, needless to say, they are a big hit! McDonald’s has 242 ice cream suppliers that help them cater ice cream flavours based on localization and most of them are located in Asia. The top suppliers are from China, Malaysia and Latvia. You can find this “matcha green tea flavour” all over McD’s in Asia and on a hot day you can see a crowd of Chinese people in McDonald’s or at their walk-up window ordering their favourite ice cream!
2. Chinese McDonald’s (麦当劳 Màidāngláo) Slogan
The slogan at Mickey D’s in China says “Get together at McDonald’s, enjoy the happiness of family life”. So naturally, it invites the locals in just by reading the inviting slogan. Since they value spending quality time with their loved ones and this is a Western brand they trust, they believe its a good place for their family to get together. McDonald’s also gives them the option of dining in or taking out. One thing the Chinese like about Western food chains is the amount of seating available if they want to dine in! If they want take out or to order its fairly simple, easy and cheap. The golden arches have become as recognizable in China as they have in the States. Western brands are highly sought after and many Chinese consumers perceive Western brands as providing quality, convenience, and customer service. This is something the Chinese look for in their food, especially when feeding the whole family.
1. The Crazy Menu Items
If you’ve ever eaten a bacon double burger at Mickey D’s and thought it was missing something, maybe the perfect add on was just a layer of mashed potatoes?! As part of their “Manly Man” campaign in 2012, McDonald’s China gave that a go and well, China loved it! Who wouldn’t want to try a burger with two beef patties, bacon, and mashed potatoes? McDonald’s China also added one of their newest menu items, the bacon mac and cheese sandwich! Yes, you read that right, hot and gooey macaroni and cheese with bacon sandwiched between grill-pressed bread. McDonald’s restaurants get their great inspiration from combining different cuisines into their American style food but surely they also do it to get you to grab your passport and go try the fun menu items across the world. Let’s not forget to mention the pineapple, taro and red bean pies available in McD’s China. Taro and red bean are very popular dessert flavours and taro is also a famous bubble tea flavour. Taro is very similar to a potato so it is referred to as the “potato of the tropics” and loved in dessert items because of its nutty flavour and overall sweetness. Then there’s the flavour that will have you expecting chocolate but its actually red bean! The history of these red beans refers to them as love beans, they are sweet and hearty. They also offer a burger with a grilled pineapple slice and curly fries on the side. Pineapple is another one of those things they love to use in desserts or food, probably learned that from the Hawaiians?! Last but not least, they also have bubble teas at all McDonald’s locations, that’s right you can get a fruity or milk bubble tea with your meal combo! As we mentioned, China specializes in strange snacks and specific tastes in their food and McD’s has offered them a combination of Western and Chinese food and drinks!