This Day in History: China’s First KFC Opens by Tiananmen Square

By Emily Guzman, November 12, 2021

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On November 12, 1987, KFC made its debut in China near Qianmen in Beijing. The restaurant was three stories tall and decked out in red and white stripes, with the Colonel’s smiling face adorning banners outside.

At 1,100 square feet, that KFC outlet was the biggest in the world at the time, according to China Daily. Hundreds of people lined up outside of the restaurant, hungry for a taste of American-style fried chicken. 

The restaurant was a hit from day one, with KFC selling over 2,200 buckets of chicken and raking up USD83,000 in just 24 hours. Customers continued to line up outside the restaurant for months after the grand opening, with 100 meter-long lines stretching into Tiananmen Square.

This Day in History: KFC Opens First Restaurant in China
An overnight hit

The instant success of the chain led KFC to open another restaurant on the Bund in Shanghai just two years later, in what is now the Waldorf Astoria hotel. It also proved to be wildly popular.

READ MORE: The Day in History: Shanghai’s First KFC Opens in 2 on the Bund

KFC in Shanghai
Hungry customers enjoy KFC at the Shanghai Dongfeng Hotel what is now the Waldorf Astoria

Three decades later, KFC is the largest restaurant branch in China and the most popular chicken restaurant chain in the world, according to parent brand Yum China. It now has over 5,000 outlets across 1,100 cities in the Middle Kingdom. 

To commemorate its 30th anniversary in 2017, KFC introduced a slew of publicity stunts and advertisements. Over the summer, the chain teamed up with Huawei to create a limited edition KFC phone. A viral facial scanning promotion with Alipay in the fall allowed customers to pay for their chicken with a smile

KFC Huawei phone
The KFC phone

So what's the secret recipe behind KFC's popularity in China? The fast food chain has paid special attention to its faithful Chinese customers, offering a localized menu in addition to their original recipes to cater to local tastes. 

[Images via China Daily and KFC]

For more History articles, click here.

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