Catering to tech-savvy tastes
Yum Holdings introduces facial recognition payment kiosks at new KPRO store and lures customers with healthier foods
Yum China Holdings Inc, operator of 5,300 KFC restaurants across China, introduced its first facial recognition ordering kiosks in a concept store called KPRO in Hangzhou that features lowcalorie menus.
The link with Alipay, the country’s largest mobile wallet, in commercializing such technologies underscores the ongoing digitalization push of the fast-food chain to leverage two trends: resonating with tech-savvy diners and jumping on the healthy-eating bandwagon.
With a color scheme of green and white to highlight the healthier fare, KPRO offers an assortment of made-to-order salads, paninis and roasted chicken, and is designed to cater to China’s burgeoning population of urban professionals, says Joey Wat, president and chief operating officer of Yum China.
“The restaurant, featuring fresh seasonal produce and integrating some of the latest technologies, serves as a bellwether for precise customer segmentation and allows us to better connect with the younger generation,” she says.
While uniforms and packaging still sport the KFC logo, the fat-laden fried chicken and fries that made it famous are nowhere to be seen. Food is complemented by freshly squeezed fruit juice, gourmet coffee, craft beer and premium low-fat ice-cream.
The restaurant itself has a relaxed cafe vibe. People are mesmerized by plants set up across the eatery, while aproned servers offer table service. An open kitchen puts ingredients and food preparation processes in full view of the diners.
Wat says the company has yet to set a target for the number and locations of new KPRO openings. But after a two-month trial run, 17 provincial markets including Beijing and Shanghai have expressed interest in introducing such outlets.
Going digital is a critical component to bolster the company’s lofty goal of adding 600 stores annually in a country where sophisticated customers are turning to healthier food offerings in Asian flavors. Currently around 45 percent of KFC sales in China are conducted via mobile payment, up from less than 20 percent a year ago.
The brand, which saw 4 percent samestore sales growth in the quarter ended May 31, has been exploding with creativity of late. Apart from being smart and fast about rolling out digital payments and delivery, it also succeeded with offbeat advertisements featuring the 30th anniversary of the brand’s entry into China.
“For fast-food brands, embracing the trend of healthy and experiential dining is the key to growth in the near future,” says Summer Chen, research analyst at consultancy Mintel. “In the meantime, staying innovative can help to win over young consumers.”
A customer pays via facial recognition technology at KFC’s concept restaurant KPRO in Hangzhou on Sept 1.