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KFC in China wants to keep you busy - eating and texting

China Daily USA | Updated: 2017-07-19 10:36

Kentucky Fried Chicken has been in China now for almost 30 years, and what better circa-2017 way to celebrate that anniversary than with a smartphone rollout.

KFC knew enough to partner with a Chinese company to produce the phone. It chose Huawei Technologies Co Ltd, based in Shenzhen, which also happens to be celebrating its 30th anniversary.

Huawei has steadily gained market share in China and is expected to overtake Samsung for No. 2 behind Apple.

KFC made the announcement about the Huawei partnership on its Weibo account on July 7, featuring a bold, one-minute, 43-second video. The clip starts out with black-and-white images of China from 1987 as techno-rock music blasts in the background.

It fast-forwards to 2017, where young Chinese are shown celebrating in a KFC restaurant as someone plays Happy Birthday in English on the phone's K-Music app. In another scene, a young man presents a rose to his sweetheart as Here Comes the Bride blares on the phone.

The bright-red KFC Huawei 7 Plus phone features a 5.5-inch screen, a Snapdragon 425 processor, 3 GB of RAM, 32 GB of storage, a microSD card and an Android 7.0 OS. There's also a fingerprint scanner on the back (make sure those digits are finger-licking clean first) above a miniature image of Colonel Sanders.

The limited edition model includes KFC's mobile app and 100,000 "K dollars" (virtual credits). The phone also features K-Music - KFC's new jukebox function.

A total of 5,000 phones will be released, KFC said on Weibo. They cost 1,099 yuan ($161.91) apiece and went on sale on Tmall on July 13.

In November 1987, KFC opened its first restaurant in China near Beijing's Tiananmen Square. The company founded as a roadside stand in 1930 by Colonel Harland D. Sanders in Corbin, Kentucky, now has more than 5,000 restaurants in China.

In November 2016, Yum China Holdings Inc was spun off from its US parent Yum Brands. Yum China now operates more than 7,600 restaurants in 1,100 cities.

The company has the rights to the KFC, Pizza Hut and Taco Bell brands in China and owns the East Dawning and Little Sheep concepts outright.

Shares of Yum China, which trade on the New York Stock Exchange under the ticker YUMC, took a hit on July 6, falling more than 10 percent as second-quarter earnings released that day, while solid, fell below expectations. The shares have since rebounded.

Barrons.com suggested the selloff could have been an overreaction. Morgan Stanley analyst John Glass told the financial website that selling pressure was exaggerated given the "in-line" and "improving second-quarter" results.

Glass has a $41 price target on the stock, which closed at $37.07 on Monday.

One reason he is optimistic is that revenue from delivery and mobile payments are expected to grow.

CEO Mickey Pant confirmed that on the last earnings call: "We are making progress in the key themes we are investing in - loyalty programs, digital and delivery capabilities, and continued upgrades of restaurant assets and optimization of store formats."

So that KFC smartphone looks like a decent way to increase those online fried chicken orders.

Contact the writer at williamhennelly@chinadailyusa.com.

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