Food Iconography: KFC, A Sign of Affluence in Vietnam?

What has The Colonel come to symbolize in Vietnam?


Since Vietnam opened itself up to international investment, more multinational companies have begun setting up franchise branches in Vietnam. For many of these long established multinationals,  venturing into new markets doesn’t just mean opening up more shops–it also presents an opportunity  to revitalize an old brand or re-envision a new legacy under a familiar name.

From ForeignPolicy.com

Case in point: Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC). KFC has been sprouting up across Southeast Asia and succeeded in reversing its image from a greasy chicken joint to a symbol of affluence. A new post on Foreign Policy Magazine, describes it like so:

This fast-food giant’s American franchises are commonly found in drab strip malls, where they dish out buckets of starchy, guilt-inducing Southern comfort food. In Asia, however, KFC stands for something far different. For emerging economies such as Vietnam, the restaurant is a harbinger of affluence: It’s often the first international chain to set up shop, and it signals a country’s arrival on the global consumer stage.

In formerly war-torn Cambodia, one of the latest frontier markets to welcome KFC, the restaurant’s silk lamps, mod furniture, and plasma TV screens evoke boutique elegance, not fast-food functionality. A 15-piece bucket of chicken costs $16.50, nearly 10 times the daily per capita income. Exclusivity is the point: The country’s tiny emerging middle class goes to KFC to see and be seen, and on most days the parking spaces outside are jammed with Lexuses and Range Rovers.

Take it as you will. KFC–a sign of global consumerism? The advent of clogged arteries? Or just some finger lickin’ good chicken?


  • coy tran

    I believe it, but as a foreigner why would I pay more for the same food here in the US?  I’d so much rather enjoy the authentic local cuisine.  I guess roles are reversed…

  • http://twitter.com/jlpham Julien Pham

    I was recently in Saigon. Saw a couple stores but mostly empty. It must be a late night thing maybe.