Ten days ago, Kunming joined the ranks of Chinese cities with McDonald’s restaurants featuring the very American concept of drive-through windows. The first Kunming McDonald’s outlet with drive-through service – which the company is marketing as 速来得 (sulaide, or ‘come and get it fast’) – is located on the west side of Chuncheng Lu south of Yongping Lu on the way to the airport. GoKunming reader Roger Greenlee looked into the fast food giant’s attempt to introduce drive-through service to Kunming :

"If you have taken a taxi anywhere in Kunming over the last year then this statement will come as no shock to you: "Kunming has too many cars". It’s almost guaranteed that if you take taxis frequently you have heard the driver mumble this exact statement in Chinese. Last year I met the French manager of Carrefour in Kunming and he said one of their catalysts for business here in Kunming is to put free parking garages attached to their stores. According to their research Kunming has the 4th largest car to people ratio in China.

"So, whether you like it or not, enter McDonald’s into the picture. As I was eating there yesterday (yeah, I’ll admit it), the little tray insert was a picture of two young Chinese couples sitting in their convertible car picking up their Big Macs from the drive-thru window. It looked like something from the Back to the Future movies.

"One exciting thing about this for Kunming is that the only other cities right now that have McDonald’s drive-thrus are Shanghai, Beijing, Guangzhou, and Shenzhen. But, of course, there will be more cities by the end of the year.

"CBSNews.com has a good article about the first drive-thru that opened in Beijing earlier this year. It seems that McDonald’s has a partnership with Sinopec, the second largest oil and gas station company in China. This partnership allows McDonald’s to open the drive-thrus adjacent to the gas station assuring maximum car traffic."

McDonald’s Opens 1st Beijing Drive-Thru

Golden Arches Stays Ahead Of The Curve As China Buys More Cars

(AP) McDonald’s Corp. opened its first drive-thru in Beijing on Friday, launching a partnership with a major Chinese oil company to set up dozens of drive-thrus to exploit the country’s growing taste for both cars and Western fast food.

The Beijing drive-thru is McDonald’s 16th in China but the first in its venture with China Petroleum and Chemical Corp., which McDonald’s China CEO Jeffrey Schwartz said would open 25 to 30 more in the next 12 to 18 months.

China’s booming market is a key growth area for the hamburger chain, Schwartz said.

"It’s huge. It’s a real priority for the global company because of the potential growth in China," he said. "We think drive-thrus are a big part of this."

McDonald’s and its partner, also known as Sinopec, christened the new two-story Beijing restaurant, set beside a Sinopec filling station, with a ceremony that mixed traditional lion dancers and a Chinese-speaking Ronald McDonald.

Minutes later, Beijing resident Dong Tianwu and his daughter pulled up at the drive-thru window in a Chinese-made Xiali compact and bought three meals and drinks.

"It’s certainly convenient," Dong said. At a walk-in McDonald’s, he said, "if you take a child, sometimes you have to line up for hours and that’s a lot of trouble."

China’s double-digit economic growth has created a burgeoning market for cars, fast food and other consumer goods. China has become the world’s second-biggest vehicle market, with 7.2 million sold last year.

McDonald’s, based in Oak Brook, Illinois, opened its first restaurant in China in 1990 and has grown to 780 outlets in 120 cities with 50,000 employees.

It faces strong competition from Yum Brands Inc., the industry leader in China with more than 2,000 KFC restaurants and 300 Pizza Huts.

"China is certainly a significant market for McDonald’s, and they’re focused on seizing that," said John Owens, who follows the restaurant industry for financial firm Morningstar Inc.

McDonald’s plans to open about 100 new restaurants in China over the coming year, with more than half equipped with drive-thru windows, Schwartz said.

The 20-year deal with Sinopec gives McDonald’s the pick of any sites where the Chinese partner decides to open a restaurant beside one of its filling stations.

Sinopec, the country’s No. 2 oil company, has more than 30,000 outlets throughout China and is adding 500 to 600 a year.

"It’s a very interesting opportunity for McDonald’s," said Owens. "They can cherry-pick the best sites."

Schwartz declined to give figures for McDonald’s sales growth in China but said it is "very strong."

The company said this week its sales for Asia, Africa and the Middle East rose 5.5 percent last year. That was above the 5.2 percent growth rate reported for the United States.

McDonald’s speeded up its plan to open drive-thrus in China after seeing strong demand at the first, which opened in December 2005 in the southern city of Dongguan near Hong Kong.

"We thought we were two to three years early, and once we opened it, we thought we might be two to three years late, because of how successful it was," Schwartz said.

The company also has drive-thru restaurants in Shanghai and the southern cities of Guangdong and Shenzhen.

By Joe McDonald © MMVII The Associated Press.











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