KFC Myanmar continues to grow strongly having opened its first outlet in 2015. We caught up with Managing Director JR Ching for an update on progress
Writer: Tom Wadlow
Project Manager: Josh Mann
Myanmar’s economy continues to develop at a solid rate.
According to the World Bank’s latest analysis, poverty declined by 16 percentage points to 32 percent between 2005 and 2015, while the country’s GDP is estimated to have grown by 6.4 percent during the 2017/2018 financial year.
A strong performing garment industry and recent approval of the Myanmar Sustainable Development Plan are positive signs for investors, and such confidence is being emulated by an expanding mid-income section of the population with disposable income.
A not insignificant amount of this disposable income is being spent on dining out, and quick service restaurant (QSR) brands such as KFC have seen lift off over the past few years. Indeed, since speaking to JR Ching, Managing Director of KFC Myanmar in December 2017, great strides have been made.
“We have very much continued our momentum into 2018,” Ching reflects. “With growth in disposable income, greater connectivity and economic development, we are seeing that consumer spending on food, beverages and other consumer goods is on the rise.
“This is not limited to Yangon and Mandalay, and the same trend is being replicated across the country. To capture this opportunity, we have been simultaneously expanding our footprint in Yangon and Mandalay as well as continuing the push to enter smaller cities such as Bago, Monywa, Pyay and Taunggyi.”
This growth in footprint translates into five new KFC store openings this year, bringing total coverage up to 26 locations nationwide.
“We have been particularly impressed with the demand for KFC outside of Yangon,” Ching adds. “For instance, the performance of our store in Taunggyi, a town of some 380,000 people, is comparable to many of our Yangon locations.”
KFC Myanmar’s revenue figures back up Ching’s observations. In the first quarter of the 2018/2019 financial year, the Company reported revenues of SGD 4.49 million, representing just over 15 percent of parent company Yoma Strategic Holding’s total revenue.
These figures look set to only move upwards in future years, with Ching stating objectives to open more than 70 stores by 2023. Many of these stores will reside outside of the major markets of Yangon and Mandalay, in keeping with KFC’s bid to become a country-wide hit and Myanmar’s best-loved food and beverages (F&B) brand.
Employee headcount across both restaurants and head office has also grown strongly, with more than 1,000 people now working for KFC. “We continue to offer industry leading training and development to our staff,” Ching adds.
“As an organisation, we go out of our way to reward peak performers and offer ample opportunities for career advancement across the board. I can talk to you all day about our expansion plans and creative marketing efforts, but none of this can happen without a happy, engaged and motivated workforce.”
In with the new
Although the aim to become Myanmar’s best-loved F&B brand has remained the same since its launch in 2015, new developments continue to keep KFC’s offering fresh and relevant to the modern-day consumer.
“We continue to view innovation as a core driver for growth,” says Ching. “I feel our commitment to regularly adding exciting new menu items and backing them with creative marketing and social media campaigns has helped to carry the buzz of KFC to our nationwide rollout.
“I don’t see another F&B brand in Myanmar with such a strong commitment to offering their customers new and exciting products day in and day out.”
Limited time offers (LTOs) have been influential in generating the brand buzz to which Ching refers.
“The recent launch of our Sichuan inspired KFC Mala Chicken is a great example,” he continues. “This LTO exceeded all expectations both in terms of sales and customer engagement with our social media and key influencer campaigns. In addition, we have introduced crispier fries and a number of new snack and dessert items aimed specifically at the local palate.”
As well as keeping its menu fresh, the way in which KFC delivers its hallmark offering in Myanmar is also being developed, chiefly through investment in digital innovations.
The country boasts an 80 percent smartphone penetration rate and is bidding to leapfrog its ASEAN neighbours in areas including mobile finance and ride sharing via the likes of Grab. For Ching and KFC, therefore, keeping up with the consumer population is paramount to its future success.
“Our digital roadmap is still in an experimental stage,” he says. “We have tested various initiatives such as in-store wifi, working with food delivery aggregators and mobile applications. Some have worked better than others!
“As the country is still going through its own digital transformation we believe all these learnings will enable us to craft a more meaningful digital roadmap that is both robust and nimble, able to meet the ever-changing needs of our consumers.”
Such needs, Ching believes, is resulting in a convergence of trends – the desire for fast, convenient food options and massive uptake in mobile usage and internet connectivity.
“The first is a greater demand for international brands, like KFC and Little Sheep to tap into the global consumer culture,” he adds. “The second is an emerging Facebook and Instagram trend where consumers are not just looking for tasty, quality food, but also something which is ‘shareable’.”
Ching mentions Little Sheep Hotpot, which is a new addition to Yoma’s portfolio in Myanmar and has been identified as a complimentary brand to KFC, based on in-depth research into the tastes and dining habits of consumers.
“Spearheaded by KFC’s expansion, we will continue to introduce new food and beverage (F&B) concepts to our portfolio, which includes the potential for both international franchises and local brands,” says Ching.
“Our targets are ambitious, by financial year 2023 we aim to have built a nationwide, multi-brand F&B platform with more than six brands and in excess of 125 restaurants and outlets across the country.
“This time next year I would hope to tell you that KFC is the undisputed number one F&B brand in Myanmar, not just in terms of physical store count, but also brand love!”