• KFC has opened over 5,000 outlets in the Chinese mainland since it arrived in 1987.

KFC has opened over 5,000 outlets in the Chinese mainland since it arrived in 1987. (Photo : Reuters)

KFC has opened a branch in the Tibet Autonomous Region, becoming the first Western fast food giant to do so, as reported by China Daily.

On Tuesday, over a thousand customers came to eat in its newly opened store in Lhasa, according to Yu Zhengqing, the branch's manager.

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Wednesday saw the branch still going strong, with locals forming long lines and large crowds. Children even posed for photos in front of the branch.

The store, which is over 500 square meters big, is expected to serve an average of a thousand customers on usual days, according to Yu.

"Food materials, including frozen chicken, have to be flown in from Xi'an in neighboring Shaanxi Province, adding to the cost. This explains why the menu in Lhasa is priced higher than outlets in the other inland cities," said Yu.

For example, a sandwich meal with chicken wings, cola and fries costs 40 yuan in Lhasa. In most of China, it only costs 31 yuan.

Despite the higher price, many in Lhasa have celebrated the arrival of the fast food chain.

"It offers another pleasant dining choice for young people from the inland area like me who grew up with frequent treats of chicken and sandwiches," said Yang Yanfang, a civil servant from Yunnan Province who is working on a two-year project in Lhasa.

"Previously, we only had Dicos," said Yang. Dicos is the Chinese fast food restaurant chain that has also seen success in Tibet.

To fit in with the area, the branch has incorporated local design elements like an image of the Potala Palace, as well as triangle motifs labeled with names of Tibetan mountains.

On Wednesday afternoon, most customers were under 40 years old, with around half being local ethnic Tibetans.

"I hadn't tried KFC before but it tastes good to me," said Gonpo Tashi, a translator who works in a company in the province.

The branch employs 40, half of which are from Tibet, including eight ethnic Tibetans, said Yu.

"Recruitment is continuing. Eventually, we hope the ratio between local ethnic Tibetan employees and non-Tibetans is even," said Yu.

In 2004, KFC decided not to open a branch in Tibet, believing it not to be commercially viable, according to a report by Reuters. Since then, the spending power in Tibet has increased, with the GDP hitting 102.6 billion yuan in 2015.

KFC has opened over 5,000 outlets in the Chinese mainland since it arrived in 1987.