KFC is bringing much more than 11 secret herbs and spices to Myanmar, as it looks to ingrain itself into the country’s food & beverage sector, and wider communities, as the country’s best loved brand
Writer: Matthew Staff
Project Manager: Joshua Mann
As the first global quick service restaurant (QSR) brand to enter Myanmar, KFC has quickly established itself as one of the leading operators in the country.
Since opening its inaugural flagship store in June, 2015, the subsequent two years has brought about unprecedented expansion, even for a business with the reputation and worldwide appeal that KFC has.
A further 16 outlets later, the Company caters for a ravenous clientele from Yangon to Mandalay and Taunggyi and has consequently been labelled ‘Rookie of the Year’ by Yum!
“This was for our successful market entry and expansion strategy,” Managing Director (MD), JR Ching says, “and we now have plans to have opened at least 20 stores by the end of 2017, expanding to at least 22 by March, 2018”.
He continues: “We undertake a comprehensive analysis for each new store, which also includes studying the trade zone, evaluating competitive dynamics, considering supply chain challenges and conducting design and construction feasibility. All of this data fuels into a site development package which we discuss with Yum! to ensure that every new store fits into our long-term site selection and expansion strategy.”
As is the KFC way, while the brand continues to expand, the products retain consistency across their quality and appeal. The way they’re bundled and offered however, have been modified and improved to bring better value to customers.
Ching explains: “We have introduced a number of value bundles such as our Weekly Wow Offers, Smart Choices Combos and, very recently, Crispy Tenders; all as part of our philosophy to provide superb value for money and accessibility to all the people of Myanmar.
“We will continue to improve our product range in the future with innovations and promotions that coincide with Myanmar festivities and celebrations as well as local flavours that match our customers’ taste profile.”
When analysing integration into a new market, it might be easy to presume that the migration for a Company like KFC would be relatively seamless, but entry into a new country - with new regulations, consumer preferences and market competition - is always a challenge.
To counter the challenge, KFC Myanmar has focused on four key pillars in order to ensure sustainable success and continuous improvement.
The first of which is “people and operations” as Ching affirms: “We train all of our people in line with KFC’s global standards to achieve best-in-class operations that are consistent with KFC stores in any other part of the world. This starts at the very beginning from recruitment and hiring and then continues to the initial one month team member training process and the career advancement programme for supervisors and managers.
“All of our staff are certified in their respective roles, and especially our well-trained cooks are certified as “Chicken Masters” in preparing KFC’s unique original recipe chicken with 11 secret herbs and spices.”
Investing in human resources is a leading priority and a growing differentiator in Myanmar, as is the Company’s second pillar; the in-store experience.
Adapting global best practices in each case, every one of the 17 stores to have been opened so far comprise state-of-the-art technologies and standardised processes; complemented by world-class outlet designs in order to create a culturally fitting, atmospheric experience for all customers.
The third pillar then revolves around product innovations, as Ching continues: “While KFC carries its own signature products that are core to the global brand - Original Recipe, Hot & Crispy and Zinger - we also recognise that we need to appeal to the local flavour palate. With that in mind, we are always working on innovative new flavours that take inspiration from Myanmar cuisine, as well as regional favourites from Thailand, China and India, to engage and excite consumers.
“These product innovations will be introduced into the market continuously as new limited time offers that can be enjoyed alongside our signature products. For instance, we have introduced Chilli Lime and Red Hot chicken offerings over the past two years which have been huge hits with our customers and we have plans for new flavours in the upcoming year.”
All of the above culminate in the fourth and perhaps most important pillar: brand love. By interacting in a plethora of online, social media, community, CSR and promotional activities, KFC’s reach in Myanmar goes beyond its stores and directly targets its loyal fans and consumers all over Myanmar.
Innovative and seamless
Ultimately, KFC aims to be the “best loved” food & beverage brand in Myanmar; a vision that Ching believes will transpire by virtue of ongoing investments across brand enrichment and online marketing.
“It has been frequently mentioned that, with 80 percent smartphone penetration, Myanmar is trying to digitally leapfrog its development in comparison to other ASEAN countries; whether through mobile money/banking or transportation with the likes of Grab and Uber having already entered the market,” he details. “To this end, KFC Myanmar is focused on developing a digital roadmap which we feel will give us a competitive advantage to keep ahead of industry developments.
“For us, digital does not mean IT, but rather is a holistic shift in our business model encompassing marketing, operations, development and supply chain to ensure that our brand stays relevant to the Myanmar consumer.”
As such, the Company has recently partnered with Wave Money, a mobile money platform serving as a general cash agent, and for payroll services.
Additionally, KFC Myanmar’s kitchen equipment meets Yum! specifications and are planning to be enhanced from an efficiency perspective in the coming months courtesy of energy saving systems that have already been trialled in Malaysia.
“In the very near future, we will also be introducing new digital assets and Wi-Fi infrastructure in all of our stores that will cut across various functions to provide a more innovative and seamless customer experience at KFC Myanmar,” Ching adds.
The overriding principle encapsulating all of the Company’s ongoing investments is to localise as much as possible, bridging the gap between provider and consumer. Of course, this is even more pertinent across its supply chain management strategy where KFC is in the process of overcoming numerous challenges to achieve the localisation it strives for.
Ching explains: “The local supply chain is still very much in a nascent stage and numerous challenges exist; from logistics and transportation, to traceability and documentation, to food safety and quality assurance.
“KFC Myanmar follows a stringent policy with regards to supplier management and all suppliers have to be YUM! audited and approved in compliance with global food safety standards. We are constantly working with new local suppliers to improve and upgrade their operations so that they understand and meet these requirements. This is an ongoing iterative process which we view as an investment in the long-term growth of this country’s overall supply chain.”
Heritage and heart
Bringing to mind notions of corporate social responsibility, KFC’s mission to uplift the local supplier network is compounded by an equally honed focus on personnel and skill enhancement in the country too.
Again following Yum! guidelines on training and development, the Company believes that career advancement is critical to staff retention, so the Company invites each and every employee to embark on their own journeys as they join KFC in its national quest.
“Recognition is also an important part of Yum!’s corporate culture and, as such, we reward outstanding performers in every facet of our operations. For instance, we send our top team members to Yum!’s regional Champs Challenge in Singapore to compete against other KFC franchisees across Asia in operational excellence,” Ching notes. “All store level staff are locally hired from the surrounding communities and, substantially, all of our head office staff are local or repatriate Myanmar.”
This not only alludes to longevity and a commitment to national development, but emphasises KFC’s encompassing reputation as a “brand with a big heart”. Witnessed outside of the business too across many CSR and charity based initiatives; examples include orphanage collaborations and a recent celebration of its Taunggyi store opening alongside 150 children.
In 2018, the Company’s ‘Add Hope’ campaign will also take off in conjunction with neighbouring markets whereby donations will be collected from customers on behalf of World Hunger Relief; the proceeds are then being distributed to charitable organisations.
And the dedication to social upliftment and food safety doesn’t stop there. In fact, KFC’s overarching passion for quality both in and out of its stores is what Ching attributes as the Company’s biggest differentiator as it now looks towards a positive future in Myanmar.
The MD concludes: “A lot of customers do not know this, but all KFC fried chicken is prepared in-store, fresh, and daily. Our certified cooks make great tasting chicken with a lot of hard work and passion passed down from Colonel Sanders with his secret recipe of 11 herbs and spices. Our brand is full of heritage and heart and this differentiates us from other food & beverage brands within Myanmar.
“We now aim to be the leading industry player in Myanmar. This is not just in terms of footprint or store builds, but also in terms of brand preference and brand love coupled with great store experiences and a full digital platform.”