Burger King in China: How a Global Fast Food Giant Adapts to Local Tastes

Burger King is a popular fast-food chain known for its delicious burgers and signature flame-grilling technique. In China, Burger King has established a strong presence, offering a wide range of menu options to cater to the diverse tastes of Chinese consumers.

This article will delve into Burger King’s expansion, challenges faced, strategies adopted for competition, and its adaptation to Chinese tastes within the dynamic food market of China.

Intrigued? Let’s dive into the delicious details.

Key Takeaways

  • Burger King entered the Chinese fast food market in 2005 and faced strong competition from KFC and McDonald’s, but has been able to establish a presence by adapting to local tastes and preferences.
  • Burger King’s expansion in China has been driven by franchise partnerships and outlet growth, allowing them to tap into the immense potential of the Chinese market.
  • To compete with established players like KFC and McDonald’s, Burger King can customize its menufocus on rapid expansion, leverage technology and digital platforms, ensure quality and consistency, and adapt its strategies to appeal to Chinese consumers.

Fast Food Market in China

Fast food gained popularity in China in 1906 with the opening of “Yili’s Fast Food Shop” in Beijing. This introduced Western-style fast food and sparked a shift towards convenience foods.

Fast-Food Restaurants in China – Market Size

As globalization increased, more Western fast-food chains, like Burger King, entered the Chinese market. Burger King is one of the world’s most famous fast-food chains, in 1954 in Miami, James W. McLamore and David Edgerton established Burger King and flame-grilled burgers began their great journey.

However, by 2013, Burger King the world’s second-largest burger chain restaurant had only 63 restaurants in the country. The younger generation in China developed a taste for American-style cuisine, as it represented not just high-calorie food but also Western culture and American history.

Competition among major fast food chains

In the highly competitive fast food industry, KFC is considered the top player in the Chinese market. However, Burger King China (BK) faced a tough challenge when it entered the market, competing against both KFC and McDonald’s (considered as the best burgers in China).

These established brands not only have a strong customer base but also dominate a significant portion of the market. Recent data from 2016 to 2020 shows that limited-service restaurant chains like KFC have gained a significant foothold in this industry.

Despite the tough competition, Burger King remains determined to expand and has ambitious plans for growth, including targeting affluent teenagers.

Burger King’s entry into the Chinese market

In 2005, Burger King restaurants made a strategic move by entering the fast food industry in China. They opened their first outlet in Shanghai, aiming to compete with established giants like KFC and McDonald’s.

This expansion was not just about providing another dining option; it was a bold plan to enter a highly competitive market worth $29 billion at the time.

Burger King understood the diverse consumer preferences in China and knew that success would not come easily in a market already dominated by international fast-food chains.

Burger King’s Expansion in China

Burger King has experienced significant growth in China through franchise partnerships and an increase in the number of outlets.

Franchise partnerships and outlet growth

Burger King’s expansion in China is focused on franchise partnerships and outlet growth. They have a long-term master franchise and development agreement that gives them exclusive rights to expand their brand in China.

This allows them to take advantage of the country’s significant growth potential and establish a strong presence nationwide. By partnering with local investors and utilizing their expertise, Burger King can accelerate their outlet growth and benefit from investment opportunities in China’s fast food industry.

Their goal is to strengthen their brand, increase their market share, and effectively compete with other major fast food chains in China.

For instance, TFI became a Burger King franchisee in China in 2012 and has expanded its outlet count from 63 to 1,000 in just six years.

Comparison with other fast food chains in China

When we look at Burger King’s performance in China, it’s important to take into account its competitors, especially KFC and McDonald’s, which also have a significant presence in the country.

Fast Food BrandChinese Market EntryApproach to Chinese MarketConsumer Perception
Burger KingLaunched in China later than KFC and McDonald’s, facing established competition.Targets younger, more individualistic diners in big cities, but wrongly assumed Chinese consumers prefer chicken over beef.Burger King is seen as a competitor to conventional fast food restaurants.
McDonald’sWas already competing for control over domestic markets when Burger King entered.Influenced the fast-service food industry in China significantly.Viewed as an established, Western fast food brand.
KFCAlso established in China before Burger King’s entry.Has had a significant influence on the fast-service food industry in China.Seen as a traditional Western fast food brand competing for market share.

Overall, while there’s a demand for fast food in China, Burger King’s late entry and missteps in understanding consumer preferences have made its competition with KFC and McDonald’s more challenging.

However, opportunities still exist for Burger King to adjust its strategies and increase its market share.

Challenges and Opportunities for Burger King in China

Burger King faces the challenge of competing with established fast food giants like KFC and McDonald’s in China, but there are also opportunities to adapt to Chinese tastes, leverage technology and digital platforms, and carve out a unique position in the market.

Strategies to compete with KFC and McDonald’s

To compete with KFC and McDonald’s in China, Burger King can employ several strategies:

  • Customize the menu: Tailoring the menu to align with Chinese market preferences is crucial. Offering localized options and incorporating popular ingredients will help attract a wider customer base.
  • Focus on rapid expansion: Following the footsteps of KFC China, Burger King can aggressively expand its outlets across various cities in China. This approach helps increase visibility and accessibility to potential customers.
  • Embrace aggressive growth tactics: By adopting an aggressive growth strategy, Burger King can quickly establish a strong presence in the Chinese market. Opening new outlets and targeting key locations will enable them to gain market share rapidly.
  • Leverage digital platforms: Utilizing technology and digital platforms is essential for establishing a competitive edge. Investing in online ordering systems, mobile apps, and delivery services can enhance convenience for customers and increase brand visibility.
  • Ensure quality and consistency: Maintaining high standards of food quality, service, and consistency is vital to gain customer trust and loyalty. Consistency across all outlets will contribute to building a reliable image for Burger King in China.

Adapting to Chinese tastes and preferences

Burger King has successfully adapted to the Chinese market by incorporating chicken dishes and chili into their menu. This is because Chinese consumers prefer pork and chicken over beef, as these meats are more affordable and readily available in China.

By offering menu items that align with these preferences, Burger King has established a strong presence in the fast food industry in China, competing with popular brands like KFC and McDonald’s.

The success of their flagship burger, the Whopper, demonstrates their understanding and ability to cater to the unique preferences of the Chinese market.

Leveraging technology and digital platforms

Technology and digital platforms have been instrumental for Burger King in China. Here are some key ways they have leveraged these tools:

  • Embracing self – service kiosks to streamline the ordering process and enhance customer experience.
  • Revamping their online digital wallet to provide convenient payment options for customers.
  • Utilizing data analysis to gain insights into customer preferences and tailor their offerings accordingly.
  • Actively seeking and incorporating customer feedback to improve their products and services.
  • Expanding their online presence through social media platforms and targeted advertising campaigns.
  • Implementing geolocation targeting technology to attract customers away from competitors.
  • Keeping up with food delivery trends by partnering with popular delivery services.

We Can Help You Achieve the Same Level of Success as Burger King!

Burger King’s entry and expansion in the Chinese market have posed both challenges and opportunities. The fast food giant has strategically partnered with franchisees to rapidly expand its presence across China.

Adapting to Chinese tastes, leveraging technology, and offering diverse menu options have been crucial for Burger King’s success in competing against established players like KFC and McDonald’s.

With a growth strategy focused on franchising and self-owned locations, Burger King is determined to regain its position within the highly competitive Chinese fast food industry.


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