The McDonald’s restaurant corporation has announced that it will add more than 1,000 new outlets in China, opening 250 for a year for the next several years. Currently the franchise operates 2,200 stores in China, but it hopes the new stores will promote long-term growth and generate better sales. China is now poised to become McDonald’s second-largest market, only slightly smaller than the market in the United States.
An additional 250 outlets will be opened in Hong Kong and South Korea over the same time. McDonald’s is currently seeking franchise partners for those areas, where it already operates 2,800 restaurants.
“Asia still offers by far the largest long-term growth opportunity in global food service,” said Elizabeth Friend, an international analyst for Euromonitor.
The new store openings follow what has been a bumpy period for the McDonald’s market in China. Some problems arose with its suppliers in 2014 that left franchises without chicken or hamburgers, two of McDonald’s best-selling items. Those supplier problems have since been resolved, and the company hopes to win its customers back.
But to do this, Chinese stores may have to work more closely with a standard Chinese diet, as consumers are increasingly health-aware. They’re also growing less and less interested in fast food: a survey of 10,000 Chinese consumers revealed that now only 51% of consumers ate Western fast food in 2015, while 67% consumed it in 2012.
Other fast food competitors have been more in tune with Chinese customers’ needs than McDonald’s has. Last year, Yum, the company that runs China’s Pizza Hut and KFC chains, split its China division off so that it could better cater to them.
McDonald’s stores are already an important part of many citizens’ daily lives. Most of the 24-hour stores receive visits from the nation’s homeless, who come inside to be warm and to sleep. McDonald’s Hong Kong has said that it has no intention of kicking these people out of its stores, something that might have happened in American stores. “We welcome all walks of life to visit our restaurants any time,” the company said in a statement. More stores could mean more safety for the homeless.