“Crunch” Landing on You: The Korean Fried Chicken Franchise Sensation

“Crunch” Landing on You: The Korean Fried Chicken Franchise Sensation

If there’s one thing that can unite the world, it would be fried chicken.

Pretty much every culture has their own version: karaage and chicken katsu from Japan, gai tod from Thailand, buttermilk fried chicken, buffalo wings, and Southern fried chicken from The United States, da ji pai from Taiwan, chicken 65 from India, chicken Kiev from Russia – the list goes on and on.

Even in Malaysia alone, there is an abundance of well-loved fried chicken styles: belacan chicken, ayam penyet, Chinese 5-spice chicken, ayam goreng berempah, inche kabin, mamak-style fried chicken, turmeric fried chicken, and many more!

With countless choices already existing locally, what do you think happened when fried chicken from Korea was introduced to Malaysia? Turns out, our appetites for chicken are voracious enough to welcome and embrace yet another style of fried chicken!

Korean fried chicken’s addictive crunch and irresistible sweet and spicy coating makes it a saucy, savoury, and satisfying meal. What’s more, even though it’s deep fried in oil, they are surprisingly not greasy, and maintains the tender moist meat in the middle.

Set in motion by the popularity of K-pop and K-dramas, Korean fried chicken has very easily made its way into the local food scene, even becoming a weekly craving of lots of Malaysians.

The Korean Fried Chicken scene in Malaysia.

BBQ Chicken’s old logo (left) and current logo (right).
Source: BBQ Chicken Facebook

It isn’t too clear which Korean fried chicken franchise first entered Malaysia. As far as I can remember, it was the BBQ Chicken franchise who pioneered this Korean delicacy in the Malaysian food scene. You may recognize them for some of their most popular signature dishes – Jerk BBQ Chicken, Korean Charbroiled Chicken, Gangjeong Chicken, and Hot Hot Drums Chicken.

BBQ’s Chicken’s signature dishes which stil remain top favourites in both Korea and Malaysia through the decades.
Source:  BBQ Chicken

The BBQ Chicken franchise originated from Korea in September 1995 and has long being recognized as Korea’s No.1 Chicken Restaurant back in the country. It is also is the first F&B Franchise brand to be selected as Korea’s Top100 Brands. With its aggressive expansion plan, BBQ Chicken has over 1000 outlets in Korea, and more than 4000 franchised shops spanning across 59 countries around the world. On top of that, they are also the first brand that uses pure olive oil from Spain for frying, giving them the competitive edge of providing customers with a tasty yet healthier deep fried food option.

Later, many other franchises such as Kyochon, 4 Fingers, Nene Chicken, and K Fry Urban

Korean entered the scene, with Goobne Chicken in My Town Shopping Center and BHC Chicken in Mont Kiara being the latest korean fried chicken franchises in Malaysia as of late 2022.

How Korean fried chicken become a global sensation

There’s nothing particularly Korean about fried chicken. As we’ve mentioned, fried chicken can be found almost anywhere.

Yet, Korean-style fried chicken has somehow managed to become a global sensation. Franchise chicken brands in Korea are aggressively expanding around the world, with a focus on the American, Asian, and Middle Eastern market. How come?

Apart from its obviously great taste, the Korean fried chicken craze is very clearly related to the rise of Korean pop culture. Countries all over, Malaysia included, have an immense interest in K-pop music like BTS and Blackpink, and K-drama television shows such as Crash Landing on You, The Goblin, and The King. Since people started paying more attention to Korean entertainment, they naturally grew interested in Korean food. This is why the main consumers of Korean fried chicken are young, consisting of people between their teens and 30s.

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Scenes from The King: Eternal Monarch where Lee Min-ho and Jeong Tae-eul eats fried chicken from BBQ Chicken
Source: Today Online

Korean food has become almost like a sampler of the Korean lifestyle. As strange as it may sound, people want to be able to imagine what their favourite celebrities are eating. Taste is not just felt on one’s tastebuds but is felt psychologically as well. It helps that Korean fried chicken is often featured in K-drama scenes, increasing curiosity and interest in the dish.

Plus, chicken is a meat source that is widely available worldwide, so it was easier for Korean chicken businesses to penetrate foreign markets. In short, the timing of Korea’s cultural achievements coincided with the country’s development of its food service industry.

How you can leverage this trend in Malaysia

1. Malaysia as the halal hub for Korean fried chicken.

Malaysia is a Muslim country, and so the people here have an extra benefit where we have a better understanding and input on how to handle chicken processing, the halal way. In addition, we have a very central location on the globe, making us ideal as a world halal distribution hub.

Because chicken is a favoured source of protein by Muslims, korean chicken franchises like BBQ Chicken are particularly popular among the community. BBQ Chicken’s largest outlet in the world, sprawled over four shops lots, is located not in Korea but in Saudi Arabia.

BBQ Chicken hopes to make Malaysia its halal production hub where halal factories will prepare and marinate chicken. The plan is that these processed chicken would be ready-to-cook and will be exported to BBQ Chicken outlets in other Muslim countries.

2. Cater to the increased demand in food delivery

Not every food item can be easily delivered. Hot soups, stone bowl meals, sizzling pan foods, ice creams, and saucy noodles deteriorate quickly during the delivery process and thus become unfavourable meals to order for home delivery.

Korean fried chicken, however, is a type of finger food that is delivery-friendly. The way it is double fried makes it able to retain its crunch even when it’s heaped in a steamy box. This dish is also suitable to be consumed at almost anytime of the day – it makes a great lunch, dinner, snack, midnight supper, or party food. People of all ages and cultures tend to like fried chicken as well. These reasons combined make it a popular delivery food item.

In the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, Kyochon has transitioned their business to focus more on delivery and takeaway. The first Kyochon in Dubai which opened in December 2021 became instantly successful among residents, recording 150 million won in sales within one month of setting up shop.

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Food that doesn’t get soggy makes the best kind of delivery meal!
Source: Nene Chicken

Conclusion

This K-chicken wave is only at its infancy. In Asia, there’s still a tonne of room to build Korean chicken franchises to meet consumer needs, and even more so outside of Asia. Places like Australia, New Zealand, Canada, South America, and even Europe and Africa are massive markets that have immense potential that’s yet to be unlocked.

If you are interested in buying a franchise, consider chatting with professionals in franchising who have set up international franchise businesses for decades. Intellect can offer you our advice, connections, and experience so that your franchise has the best chance at succeeding and growing.