Chinese fast-food chains taste success at home, abroad

Infusion of traditional flavors, new generation of diners have industry sizzling

By LI YINGXUE | CHINA DAILY | Updated: 2024-04-17 07:00
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Diners line up outside a Chinese restaurant during the Spring Festival holiday in New York on Jan 28. LIAO PAN/CHINA NEWS SERVICE

Partner system

Micun Banfan, a brand specializing in authentic Korean cuisine from Yanji, Jilin province, has recently become the new favorite of working people. Founded in 2014, it now boasts 1,000 stores and is nicknamed the "Northeast McDonald's".

In its kitchen, customers can witness the preparation process as staff pour pre-prepared ingredients onto an iron plate, and heat and mix them with a pre-prepared sauce before serving a sizzling dish.

Despite some reservations about pre-prepared dishes, Micun Banfan's use of quality ingredients and affordable pricing (around 20 yuan) has earned it the title of "the favorite work meal of working people" on social media. Served in steaming stone pots with specially made protective paper to prevent splashes, it creates a different dining experience.

Zhou Ning, general manager of Yanbian Micun Catering Management Company, said that the brand's mission is to offer great food at a reasonable price. In 2021, its traditional Korean cooking techniques were recognized as an intangible cultural heritage in Jilin. That same year, Micun Banfan moved its headquarters to Shenyang, capital of Liaoning province, and introduced a partner system to implement its expansion.

Under the system, partners, store managers, master chefs, regional managers, and site selection teams share the benefits and risks together. This approach allows the brand to expand without shouldering all the operating costs.

"We continuously refine our partner mechanism to ensure mutual success," Zhou said. "Our regional managers support store managers, focusing on customer satisfaction and maintaining our brand's reputation."

Micun Banfan uses a structured training system for all its staff, with the aim of fostering a culture of continuous improvement and passing on knowledge.

Competitive pricing stands out as a feature of Chinese fast-food chains.

Bingz, a Chinese fast-food chain famous for its roujiamo meat burgers, decided to slash prices in early 2023. Some dishes like the chicken bone spicy and sour noodles dropped from 15.75 yuan to just 9.9 yuan for a limited time.

Founder Meng Bing said their market research highlighted the importance of offering value for money. "We've noticed a shift away from impulsive spending to a more practical mindset, where people want quality products and services for their money," Meng said.

At the end of last year, Bingz opened a new factory in Leling, Shandong province. The factory processes noodles for the global market and meat products for domestic tastes.

Bingz also sources ingredients globally to ensure quality and affordability. "Our restaurants are adopting a low-margin, high-volume sales strategy, moving away from high prices to attract more customers," Meng explained.

Currently, Bingz has about 200 stores across China, spanning 13 cities including Beijing, Shanghai, Tianjin, and Guangzhou, Guangdong province. This year, Bingz plans to expand to more provincial capitals, aiming to surpass 500 stores by the year's end.

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