How main fried chicken restaurants in Thailand utilize Facebook to remain competitive during COVID-19

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JAN 5, 2021

It is undeniable that, at least once in a lifetime, we get to taste fried chicken. You might as well call it an international menu when we refer to the number of worldwide branches of a well-known fried chicken, KFC, which sums up to 24,000 locations in 145 countries [i]. This marks KFC as the fourth largest fast food restaurants chains in the world [i]. However, if we look at a specific variation of fried chicken, that is a korean fried chicken, we would see that the number of the restaurants in South Korea alone is around 87,000 (as of February 2020) [i]. In fact, the sum of locations of two largest fast food restaurant chains, Subway and McDonald’s, is only about 81,000 locations. Thank you to korean chefs that do not reserve their cuisine domestically. Instead, they share this incredibly delicious recipe to the world. This can be supported by the number of branches of Bonchon, a korean fried chicken founded in South Korea 2002 and first located in the USA in 2006 [i]. Now, Bonchon has 101 branches across 21 states in the USA and 260 branches in the rest of the world with continuous growth.

Looking at Thailand fried chicken restaurants, KFC dominates the market with market share around 65% out of the total market value of 14.7 billion Thai Baht and has total locations of 826 [i]. But the competition in this market is still heating up. Before the lockdown of Covid-19, other well-known brands in the market are trying to expand by opening more stores, e.g. in July 2020, Texas chicken under the operation of PTTOR planned to renovate existing 79 branches and open one more branch while Bonchon under the operation of Minor Food would open more 17 stores in addition to its 50 stores [i].

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Figure 1. Thailand’s fried chicken market share and branches

Nevertheless, the operation of physical restaurants are limited because of the lockdown policy. Hence, these companies had to rely on their online and delivery channel to maintain the business. As the most used platform in Thailand [i], we will take a look at how the facebook page of key players in Thailand’s fried chicken market [i][i], KFC, Bonchon, Texas Chicken, are doing.

Overall growth of fans 

As the longest operating brand among the three, KFC has the highest fans on facebook, followed by Texas Chicken and Bonchon, respectively. The absolute number of fans in January 2020 for KFC, Texas Chicken and Bonchon are approximately 4.7, 0.34 and 0.16 million, respectively.

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Figure 2. Number of fans

However, if we look at the MoM percent growth, we will see that Texas Chicken formed a spike in April by jumping from 0.7% in March to 6.5% growth in April. Though the growth of the other two brands also increased, the magnitude was not as noticeable as Texas Chicken’s.

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Figure 3. Texas Chicken and its highest growth in 2020

One more thing worth mentioning is how Bonchon leaped from February to March, 1.17% to 4.64%, ahead of the other two competitors. This could be the reason that Bonchon’s growth from March to April is quite steady as it was boosted in March already.

We bring last year’s growth to see if this could be a seasonal trend. The result from comparing MoM growth shows that the peak around March and April 2020 did not present in 2019. In fact, Texas Chicken grew by 28 times (0.23% versus 6.5%) compared to the same month (April) of the previous year. Therefore, the peak is unlikely to be seasonality. And since the peak happened around April, a period where national lockdown was imposed, the government’s policy could be one of the factors contributing to this growing trend. As dine-in was mostly prohibited, the brand has to adapt quickly by focusing more on online channels.

Did these brands behave differently in 2019 and 2020, especially around February to April?

In 2019, Bonchon posted the most in September and that remains true in 2020 (as of October 2020). But a huge difference is the number of posts in March to May 2020. Bonchon had been very active by posting 2-3 times more in those months compared to the same period in the previous year. While KFC posted consistently throughout 2019 but not in 2020. In 2020, KFC posted the most in January and May. Lastly, Texas Chicken’s overall number of posts are increasing with noticeable jumps in March and April, moving from 17 to 47 posts (176%) and 15 to 45 posts (200%), respectively.

Number of Posts By Brand During Jan-Oct 2019 and 2020

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Figure 4. Number of overall posts by brand and average engagement rate from January to October in 2019 and 2020

(Remark: The vertical axis (number of posts) of all graphs above has a maximum of 60 and the colors show the average engagement rate in the corresponding month from 0% to 5.38% with the center of 2.19% )

Looking at the average engagement rate of each month, we use the benchmark of 2.19%, an average engagement rate for the Facebook page in Thailand with more than 100,000 fans [i], to identify which month of each brand is likely to reach or surpass that level. It turns out that Bonchon is the only brand that engaged its audiences greater than the benchmark in the first three months of 2020.

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Figure 5. Bonchon posts and engagement in 2020

So far, we have seen that growth of fans and posts frequency on Bonchon and Texas Chicken Facebook have stood out around February to April. Plus, Bonchon entered the first quarter of 2020 with a decent engagement rate. Up to this point, you might want to explore factors that contribute to a high engagement rate of Bonchon. The next section will take you through that.

Could posting time impact the engagement?

We equally divide 24 hours into 6 sessions, starting from midnight to see when the brands usually post. The data reveals that the highest number of posts fell into the 8am-12pm session and lower as time passes by. However, to identify the most popular session of the day,  we also divide 2020 into 4 quarters and apply the same engagement benchmark (2.19%). It turns out that only Bonchon’s early and evening session in Q1 can surpass that level.

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Figure 6. Post frequency in each time period

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Figure 7. Post frequency in each time period of each 2020’s quarter

What are the posts that Bonchon published back then? 

Bonchon’s post in February 2020 that has the first and second highest engagement rate, as of October 2020, was a post about a new dish called Gimmari. The post reached 45,000 likes and engagement of 29%. And the third highest engagement post in March also introduced a new menu, Mala. The post gained 32,000 likes and 325 comments resulting in engagement rate of 21%. In fact, since January 2020, Bonchon has posted 188 posts. There are 55 posts whose engagement rate is more than 2.19% and out of these posts, 15 posts (i.e. 8% of all posts) are about new menus.

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Figure 8. First three highest engagement posts of Bonchon in 2020

What about other brands? 

On the other hand, KFC has a quite consistent engagement rate with an average of 0.17%. Instead of launching new menus, KFC focuses on offering promotions, especially its famous Tuesday Promotion. The highest engagement rate was a promotional post for its existing product Float and received likes and comments and engagement rate of 109,000, 5,500 and 2.6%, respectively. 

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Figure 9. KFC popular posts

In contrast, Texas Chicken’s highest engagement rate post is neither a new menu nor promotions. In fact, it is an event Texas Chicken Cooking Challenge which featured Thailand famous actors, Bright and Win, marking the number of likes, comments and engagement rate of 4,300, 49,000 and 25%, respectively. Nevertheless, the rest of the posts are pretty much promotional or introducing new branches to support its plan to expand the operating area.

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Figure 10. Texas Chicken posts

Conclusion

Covid-19 is a challenge for many businesses. With the lockdown and social distancing policies, restaurants have to deviate from a traditional way of serving the products. Online channels, especially Facebook, have played a crucial role in letting the customers know what the company has to offer during this tough time. Surprisingly, Texas Chicken had outperformed the other two brands by jumping almost 10 times within one month (March to April 2020) in  fan growth. This may be the result of higher number of posts of Texas Chicken facebook page with YoY growth of 176% and 200% in March and April 2019-2020, respectively. Another factor contributing to increase in fan growth could be content of the posts. Despite having the same active session during the day, Bonchon, KFC and Texas Chicken seem to apply different posting styles on their page.

  • Bonchon focuses on new menus

  • KFC is promotional-based 

  • Texas Chicken occasionally features Thailand’s famous celebrities together with promotion and new branches introduction. 

What could be done further will require other information, e.g. how many people see the posts on their feed (so called post reach), what brings the audience to the page, how much can the posts drive the sales, etc. Also, the company may look at other platforms, e.g. LINE MAN, Grab Food, foodpanda, and conduct similar exploration. When analyzed properly, the business can gain insights which can be used to plan its next strategy as well as move the business ahead of its competitors. And if you are looking for a business partner who can assist you in finding your golden pieces of information and make sense out of them, Sertis is here to empower your business out of data you have on hand.

References

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