Ca­ter­ing to tech-savvy tastes

Yum Hold­ings in­tro­duces fa­cial recog­ni­tion pay­ment kiosks at new KPRO store and lures cus­tomers with health­ier foods

China Daily European Weekly - - Front Page - By HE WEI hewei@chi­nadaily.com.cn

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.”

XU KANGPING / FOR CHINA DAILY

A cus­tomer pays via fa­cial recog­ni­tion tech­nol­ogy at KFC’s con­cept restau­rant KPRO in Hangzhou on Sept 1.

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