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How Get Started into China’s QSR Market (快餐业)


In restaurant business, the Quick Service Restaurant (QSR) concept is a powerful invention in the past century. All top ten restaurant chains in America today are the QSRs[1]. The first Big M built by McDonald brothers in the late 1940’s is reckoned as a modern QSR’s prototype and a milestone that signaled the rapid growth of the QSR industry. 
   As a powerful concept to change the landscape of a traditional industry, the QSR processes some quintessential qualities: easy to understand, to duplicate, to form a chain, and to be modified for category extension; dynamical to elevate its related industries such as food processing and supply chain; inclusive for all people as its customers for its pricing, quality and convenience to such an extend that can change people’s appetite. It also transforms the restaurant business from a food focused business to a management oriented business. 
   Based on the observation above, China and many of emerging market has yet to develop their own working prototype to jump start a QSR industry. 
   McDonald brothers were the genius to innovate a QSR prototype, but it took a whole lot of people to build an industry. Because the prototype was so easy to be understood and to be duplicated, it immediately inspired entrepreneurs and investors to follow the suit and became successful in their own right. Ray Kroc[2], a milkshake salesman without hand-on experience in restaurant business, is just one of the typical examples how people could be inspired by the concept after visiting the first big M. 
Year Founded
Burger King
Pizza Hut
Taco Bell
Domino's Pizza
Dunkin' Donuts
Jack In the Box
(The top QSRs in America and their founded years.)[3]
   Shown in the chart above, sixty percent of America’s biggest restaurant chains today were established within the ten years after McDonald’s first prototype. It immediately extends the food category from hamburger to pizza, chicken foods, Mexican’s, bakery, coffee, sandwich and so on. Nowadays, the category and subcategory of the QSR has continued to extend into health oriented, family oriented, better burger, bigger burger and many more. 
   UNIQUENESS – KFC and McDonalds in China 
   KFC open its first store in China in 1987, and McDonalds in 1993. They are so massively successful that they are the top two biggest restaurant companies both in sales and in numbers of the stores in China. In a foreseeable future, these two companies will continue to grow faster than anyone else. 
   Even for their omnipresent, it is interesting to notice – after twenty years, they are still the only and closest things to be reckoned as a QSR (by the definition of what a QSR is) in China. Chinese are so well-known for their skills to mimic world products. But in case of the QSR, after many trying, they have so far failed to duplicate the success and to produce a prototype, but so are the other established foreign QSRs which are also unable to follow the suit of KFC and McDonalds. 
   In a Chinese proverb, ‘one tree does not make a forest’. Two successful companies do not make up a whole industry. Their unique success reveals more on the weakness of China’s restaurant business in a global setting than as an indicator of the future trend, and reflects their models are un-duplicable in nature. 
   Who will set the trend 
   On paper, China’s market today is very similar to America’s in its 1950’s. Both show a dynamic and large domestic market, a burgeoning economy, a new middle class with an appetite to buy, and so on so forth. However, it is the market details making all the differences. 
   The QSR concept is simple, but the simplest thing is incredibly difficult in a sophisticated economic environment. In China, all these fundamental elements constructing a QSR concept have been missing either here or there. The arguments of localization, sanitation, early entries and so on about the successed do not explain why it is so hard to produce a duplicable prototype in China. 
   For a restaurant industry, the QSR is the unarguably trend in a gradually industrialized society. Its format to succeed would not be changed no matter where. China has yet to have a prototype to initiate the development of the QSR into a dynamic industry although the definition of the QSR has already shown all the elements necessary to foster such a prototype. It is how to make all these simple elements working out and working out together in a sophisticated environment plays the trick.
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