“Chinese-style burger” brand battles food safety complaints

The Chinese fast food chain Tastien, famed for popularising the “new Chinese-style burger”, has made a splash this year with its innovative East-West fusion menu and patriotic marketing tactics.

But the brand is increasingly attracting the wrong kind of attention on Chinese social media sites. On Instagram-like platform Xiaohongshu, which these days doubles as a hub for product reviews and recommendations, many Tastien customers have been sharing photos of chicken burgers and wings that appear to be uncooked.

One post with 440 likes, showing the pale pink interior of the popular chicken and pineapple burger, was captioned “If Chinese burgers are like this, better not make them at all”. One commenter helpfully chipped in, “As a loyal fan of theirs, I actually agree that their quality control is different in each store.”

Another customer in Nanchang, Jiangxi province posted a picture of his uncooked chicken drumstick on the platform and later managed to negotiate 1000 RMB (136.67 USD) in compensation from the company in exchange for deleting the post. The pay-off was unfortunately too late to stop the incident from having a viral moment on microblogging mecca Weibo, where the hashtag #塔斯汀被爆吃出升级肉# (#Tustinexposedforrawchicken) hit no.1 on the site’s Hot Search list, gaining over 300 million views.

Established in 2012, Tastien’s presence has mushroomed in lower-tier Chinese cities over the past three years. At over 5,000 stores, it is now the fourth largest burger joint in China and is quickly becoming a serious competitor of American behemoths KFC and McDonald’s – and at about half the price. Besides low prices, Tastien’s guochao-infused marketing is a big draw for consumers.

“The trend is evidenced in a study RTG Consulting Group did this year, where the top reason Chinese consumers cited for buying local products was ‘to support China,’” Mark-Olivier Arnold of RTG Consulting Group told Sixth Tone. “About one in four consumers surveyed said that they planned to increase their purchases of Chinese brands.”

But as the brand’s visibility grows exponentially, patriotic marketing will not be enough to win over Chinese consumers. If it doesn’t standardize food safety procedures as a top priority, Tastien will certainly not live up to its slogan “Chinese stomachs love Chinese burgers”.


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