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Colonel Sanders Winning Fast-Food Wars in China

As far as international fast-food chains go, McDonald’s 1,964 outlets are no match for Yum! Brands’ KFC in China. With 5,854 outlets in China in 2013 (up from 5,275 in 2012), KFC sits on the very top of the fast-food world in China… and doesn’t look to be losing ground anytime soon.

Rounding out the top 10 (in descending order) are Hua Lai Shi, Dicos, GII Wanton, McDonald’s, Pala Hamburger, LEM hamburger, Zhenkungfu, Da Niang Dumpling, and finally at No. 10, Subway.

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KFC, McDonald’s, and a few others, have been in the news lately regarding a report last week showing staff at Shanghai Husi Food Co., Ltd., a Chinese food supplier, using “long-expired” meat and unhygienic workplace practices. Shanghai Husi Food is owned by Illinois-based OSI Group.

Nevertheless, it’s doubtful that any of the fast-food restaurateurs will be seriously hurt by this negative news, especially when considering that many international brands have better reputations in China than quite a few of the local brands.

KFC has more to worry about in its own backyard though, where Chick-fil-A is literally kicking the Colonel’s butt in the U.S. market place. The Georgia-based fast-food chain has managed to wrestle 26% of its relative market share from KFC—beating Yum! Brand’s anchor company by a few percentage points. Moreover, even McDonald’s—the “creator” of the (in)famous Chicken McNugget—is admitting that “Chick-fil-A is a serious and growing competitive threat.”

Chick-fil-A has had an amazing growth story over the past decade, clawing and scratching its way to the top from just a single-digit market share. And doing so with fewer store locations than KFC, as well as a long-standing company policy of remaining closed on Sundays.

I’m guessing that if Chick-fil-A, a privately owned company, were to ever break out internationally it might just dip its toes in the Chinese market first, and that just might spark Yum! Brands and McDonald’s into a friendly takeover-bid war of epic proportions. Alas, all of this is simply wild speculation on my part, especially knowing that Chick-fil-A has been around for quite a while and has remained in private hands all these years. For good reason, I can only assume.