With one eye on the growing population of people who prefer eating out, Yum Restaurants (Taiwan) Co (台灣百勝肯德基) announced yesterday plans to double the number of KFC outlets in Taiwan within five years.
The ambitious expansion plan is also part of Yum Restaurants' strategy to dethrone its major rival and become the No. 1 fast-food brand in the nation.
Taiwan's fast-food market has long been dominated by McDonald's, which has a total of 346 stores nationwide. KFC has 133 restaurants.
"We've built a strong brand over the past two years with new products and amusing commercials, which have left a deep impression on consumers," said Olga Wu (吳美君), managing director of Yum Restaurants, at a press conference.
"However, we've been too slow in opening new stores," she said.
Over the past four years, the company has only added six new outlets because of a lack of expansion experience.
But fresh marketing strategies helped boost revenues last year by 14 percent year-on-year and net profits to double, Wu said. She declined to offer detailed figures.
As the firms headquarters in Kentucky has vowed to increase its investment in Taiwan, Yum Restaurants has taken on an expansion expert from China, hoping to have at least 250 stores open by 2010.
Responsibility for accomplishing this unprecedented expansion scheme will fall on Yu Guowei (虞國偉), 41, associate director for development, who is also responsible for KFC development in Zhejiang Province.
Joining the fast-food chain eight years ago, Yu was promoted to the position of development manager in Hangzhou after just two years of service. Under his management over the past six years, KFC has quickly expanded from 28 to 155 stores in Zhejiang, far outnumbering McDonald's 33 outlets.
Citing his observations from the past two months in Taiwan, Yu said the eating habits of people on both sides of the Taiwan Strait share many similarities.
"I have full confidence in the Taiwanese fast-food market as the economy continues to grow and more people prefer to eat out," he said.
Faced with its smaller rival's ambitious new strategy, McDonald's appeared unfazed, saying that it is following the McDonalds group's international policies to secure growth in every segment.
"Since we launched our new `I'm Lovin' It' branding campaign in 2003, we've focused on expanding our customer base and boosting their number of visits to our restaurants, instead of just setting up new outlets," said Shalom Chen (陳家祥), public relations manager of McDonald's Restaurants (Taiwan) Co.
Having gone through its fast-expansion period, Chen said McDonald's still expects to expand the number of its locations and present new products this year, although no details were available.