Like it or not, global fast food culture has arrived in Myanmar.
Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC), the first international brand to enter the market, welcomed excited crowds to its first outlet in downtown Yangon on Tuesday.
Several hundred customers squeezed into the Bogyoke Aung San Road restaurant, many bursting through the glass doors when they opened at lunchtime.
There were so many people that security guards had to hold back the crowd, which curved past onlookers including a woman selling caged birds for merit release.
Employees had prepared in advance using different “simulations” of how the opening would play out, said JR Ching, a representative of KFC Myanmar, which came about through a partnership between Yum! Brands and Yoma Strategic Holdings.
Nu Nu Than, a former Burma Railways official of Indian heritage, shared a table on the bustling ground floor of the restaurant with her daughter, Mala Than.
“Today is my birthday and my daughter’s birthday also,” she said, waving around a flaky piece of chicken. “She is 27 and I am 63 so we are just enjoying ourselves here.”
It makes a pleasant change from home-cooking, she said.
“We wanted to have [KFC] when we saw it on the TV – Indian programs always advertise this… Indian food is very spicy. We are just fed up of that. We like fried [food].”
At KFC Myanmar, two chicken thighs cost K3,500. The country is about to set its minimum wage per day at K3,600.
So why pay twice what you would for local fried chicken, which goes for as little as K1,000 on the street?
“This chicken is more delicate than the other and more delicious,” said Ma Khin Myaw Oo, a young woman in her twenties who shared an enormous bucket of chicken with her father, U San Thein.
They paid K23,000 for the meal, which also included sodas and Portuguese egg tarts. “It’s affordable,” said U San Thein, 63.
He had previously gone so far as to ask Malaysian friends to bring KFC with them on the plane.
Now, he can stroll a few blocks from his office whenever he fancies a bucket.
Nu Nu Than also said she planned to make the outlet a regular stop.
“I will be coming now and then because I don’t want to just have rice and curry – I’m getting old, you know.”
Photo / Coconuts Yangon / Aung Naing Soe