KFC’s Not So KFC Menu

“Welcome to KFC, where we do chicken right.” This familiar saying is heard upon one’s entry into any American KFC. Should one assume to hear the same when entering a Shanghai KFC? What about KFC in Europe? Surprisingly, the answer is most likely no. While KFC in China might look like KFC on the outside, take a look at the menu, and one will find it is not the same KFC food Americans are accustomed to eating.

The obvious difference is the French fries. That’s right, French fries. KFC in China has French fries, while American KFC offers potato wedges. How could KFC allow this? The potato wedges are KFC’s signature side, as most combos are automatically served with potato wedges. KFC in China also serves chicken sandwiches with corn, peas, and carrots mashed into the processed meat. Again, a completely different sandwich than what Americans eat. You will not find popcorn chicken nor will you find any resemblance of a leg and thigh meal. The KFC here also serves rice soup, almost like a porridge. Just by looking at the menu one would never guess a KFC offered such.

While Americans love KFC, the Chinese would not eat the food served at an American KFC. After having been in Shanghai for one month, the only item I would expect them to eat other than chicken is a side dish of corn. After eating KFC for dinner tonight and checking the menu, the corn is on the cob.

I have been told that KFC is the most popular fast food restaurant in China, even more popular than McDonald’s or Burger King. Surprisingly, McDonald’s, with the exception of bubble tea, offers the same burgers and chicken sandwiches as seen on the menu at home. A reason for McDonald’s lower ranking among the fast food chains? Probably so.

As with any country, in order to sell a product it must appeal to the consumer. In China, that is exactly what KFC has done. Is KFC still KFC then? The argument could be made that changing a food product so drastically changes the experience one is intended to have while eating. While there is truth in that statement, the same scenario has happened in America. A perfect example is American Chinese food.

Chinese food in America is not the same as Chinese food in China. For example, the concept of the fortune cookie does not exist in Chinese culture and is not served at the end of each meal. To the Chinese, the fortune cookie is a Chinese American invention. Also, I have yet to see General Tsao’s chicken on any menu or an egg roll served as an appetizer. Just as KFC changed its menu to fit the needs of its buyers, Chinese food in America is changed to please the American palate.

After my first visit to KFC, I was a bit disgruntled to find the menu options drastically different, but I have realized that China could care less about my taste buds. I need to be less ethnocentric and learn to appreciate their food tastes. I have learned to eat real Chinese food, right? Adjusting to Chinese KFC should not be a difficult challenge.