For Western fast food chains, India is one of the world’s largest untapped markets. India’s booming middle class means plenty of potential customers for giants like KFC and Taco Bell parent company Yum Brands. There are 280 KFC restaurants located in 35 Indian cities; owing to the relative unfamiliarity of American-style Mexican food in India, there are only three Taco Bell branches.
Yum wants to crack the code of the Indian market, but things work a little differently there. Taco Bell branches offer a “kathitito”–a sandwich with Mexican-American fillings stuffed inside an Indian flatbread. KFC restaurants offer a menu of sweetened dairy slushy drinks and fried vegetable sandwiches. Both chains also sell special group menus designed for family dining.
Then there are the touchscreens. Yum Brands is testing touch screen Taco Bell and KFC ordering at restaurants in New Delhi and Bangalore. The touch screens, installed in late 2012, accept credit card payment only and allow users to customize their food orders. Five kiosks are currently in the field, and 10 more are expected to be added to busy KFC and Taco Bell branches nationwide.
The touchscreens are manufactured by Emn8, a California-based firm that creates kiosk, touch screen, and mobile payment products for large chains like Burger King and Domino’s Pizza. The goal, Emn8 officials told Fast Company, is to speed up service time at KFC branches and to encourage custom ordering at Taco Bell.
In India, Taco Bell’s presence is concentrated in Bangalore–a thriving, tech-friendly city with a large middle- and upper-class population with American cultural ties. Bangalore’s demographics make it the perfect place for Taco Bell to establish a foothold in South Asia.
While most of Taco Bell India’s menu is familiar to American customers, there are some differences. Owing to Hindu and Muslim cultural sensitivities, beef and pork products are off the menu. Chicken and lamb are the only meats in sight. There are special items designed for the Indian palate. The chipotle vegetable chalupa has the same shell Americans love, but it’s filled with a spicy soy protein-and-vegetable hash. India even has a special dessert, the Chocodilla—a tortilla stuffed with chocolate and toasted in a quesadilla press.
Other items are tweaked for Indian tastes. Burritos can be stuffed with paneer (a firm white cheese) and Mexican pizzas use spicy chicken instead of beef. For Yum, a major part of the kiosk rollout is Taco Bell’s vegetarian versatility. Owing both to the large number of Indian vegetarians and local unfamiliarity with Mexican food, the touch screen interface lets users customize food to their heart’s content. Of course, the frequent upsells for premium vegetarian add-ons don’t hurt Yum’s bottom line either.
For KFC, a brand identified entirely with delicious fried chicken, positioning themselves as a go-to lunch for vegetarians is a different proposition. The Indian market is far more familiar with fried chicken as well, thanks to both local fried chicken preparations and a culinary legacy from centuries of British rule. Whatever the causes, fried chicken is big business in India. KFC’s Indian menu largely parallels its American parent, with the exception of an enhanced dessert menu and all the fried vegetable-based items the heart could desire. Fried vegetable sandwiches and fried vegetable strips are on the menu, alongside Chicken Rizo—plates of fried chicken, rice, and spicy sauce.
One notable feature is that the kiosks are intentionally designed to keep tabs on customer ordering habits. Meals can only be paid for by credit card; upon entering a credit card (or, alternately, typing in a phone number), past meal histories can be loaded up on-screen and reordered at will. Most fast food customers are creatures of habit who order similar meals week after week; Yum and Emn8’s hope is that the kiosks will streamline the ordering process in one of the world’s busiest fast food markets.
[Images courtesy of Emn8]