KFC to open first restaurant in Tibet

Fast-food giant KFC is opening its first US-style fried chicken restaurant early next yearin a shopping mall in Lhasa, capital of the Tibet autonomous region.

The two-story restaurant, which is under construction, will serve residents and touristsalike, said Yum Brands Inc, the parent company of KFC, Pizza Hut and Taco Bell.

"The restaurant will incorporate local design elements, provide employmentopportunities and support the development of the regional supply chain," a companyrepresentative said.

Chen Biao, a manager with the Lhasa Shenlishidai shopping center, said consumers inTibet are likely to embrace KFC's fast food, a mix of its US-style dishes and others morein keeping with the traditional tastes of the Chinese consumer.

"Before KFC chose to enter Tibet, we already had some fast food restaurants such asDico's," Chen said, referring to the Chinese fast-food restaurant chain owned by the TingHsin International Group.

"Consumers in Tibet accept fried chicken and hamburgers."

The new KFC, which could open as early as January, should appeal to tourists in the city,which is growing as a renowned tourism destination, Chen said.

Xu Bin, founder of haixizang, a website that provides information on travel to Tibet, saidsome individual tourists would choose restaurants that offer convenient Western fastfood. But he questioned whether tourist groups would find it too expensive and too smallto accommodate their numbers.

The city's younger residents maybe bigger fans of the restaurant's buckets of chickenserved with mashed potatoes and gravy. Basang Drolma, a 16-year-old Tibetan girl, saidher parents don't like Western food, but she gets them to take her to such places on theweekend. "I like to eat fast food, like the hamburgers and fried chicken wings in Dico's,"she said.

Dronla, 26, a Tibetan from Lhasa, said she liked to eat some Western dishes, such asstreak and pizza, but didn't like fried chicken or other fast food.

KFC will be watching sales closely. It said it plans to build a 4.67-hectare frozen storagearea in the Lhasa suburbs to prepare for further expansion in the region.

In 2004, KFC shelved plans to open in Tibet, saying it was not "economically feasible",according to Reuters. But spending power has continued to increase. Tibet's GDP hit 92.5billion yuan ($14.3 billion) in 2014, maintaining its double-digit growth since 1994.

Market potential and a sound investment environment have made Tibet increasinglyattractive to overseas investors.