While McDonald’s has operated in China for some time now, Burger King now appears close to opening its first branch in the country — in Shanghai. BK has high hopes for the country, as do other fast food chains.
According to the Wall Street Journal, Wendy’s is scouting out locations and Hormel Foods is looking at opening hot dog stands.
But the article notes that not all restaurants have thrived in China. Schlotzsky’s Deli withdrew from the market and McDonald’s recently cited “weakness” and put in a new management team. And then there is pricing. BK is charging 40% to 50% less than what it charges in the US.
Nevertheless, it’s safe to say that any multinational fast food chain has little choice but invest in China. BK has 7,956 locations now operating in the US, so there’s not much room left to grow. China, despite the risks, despite the low margins, despite the inevitable cultural missteps, is where the action is.
What about the BK China Web site?
While McDonald’s offers a China Web site, Burger King does not. It’s early yet of course, but BK does not have the best track record in Web globalization. If you visit the corporate site you’ll be hard-pressed to find links to the country sites. As best as I can tell, many countries that BK does business in do not have localized Web sites.
To complicate matters, Burger King is known as Hungry Jack’s in Australia.
Apple’s globalization of iTunes appears to be moving right along. According to the press release:
“iTunes Music Stores were launched in the UK, France and Germany in June 2004, and now operate in 17 European countries including Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Spain, Sweden and Switzerland. The European iTunes Music Stores have catalogs of over one million songs each, and feature content from all major music companies and over 1,000 independent record labels.”
Now we wait for Apple to tackle Asia. Sites for Australia, New Zealand, and Japan are expected this year.
eBay held its annual developers conference and, according to this article, is not close to launching any translation service for sellers. Here’s an excerpt:
Another questioner wanted to know if eBay had any plans for a translation feature, saying it was difficult for sellers to sell in a multi-cultural, multi-language region, for example on a European site where browsers might be from Germany, Italy, Spain, etc. Steinhorn responded they hadn’t thought through all the ramifications of such a service, for example, if eBay’s translation was “less than spectacular.” Don Durbin suggested a good approach might be to partner with someone within the country to do the translation, and indicated one seller had created a tool with tabs within a listing for different languages such as English, Italian, etc. She said she did not expect eBay would be offering translation services in the near future.
And eBay’s loss of Japan to Yahoo! is clearly still a source of pain:
Cobb and Jordan’s answers seemed to highlight the international focus of much of the conference. The “biggest blight” on the record of international has been Japan, said Cobb. “We were late” in the Japanese market, said Jordan. The Japanese didn’t respond to an English-written product with dollars,” he said wryly, to laughter from the audience.
What eBay doesn’t highlight is that their classified portal, Kijiji, is already localized for Japan; so to some extent they are trying to get back in. And, I believe, they really have no choice but take another shot at Japan. I wrote about this earlier this year in our eBay Global Profilereport.
On a separate note, eBay has partnered with B-B trade portal in China, Global Sources. You can read about the deal here.