• Cheesy fries and the Bandito Pockett define fast food in Singapore
  • Cheesy fries and the Bandito Pockett define fast food in Singapore
    Written by battye
    Thu Jan 06, 2011 7:28 am

    Population wise Australia is quite small, such that even the largest city - Sydney (4.5 million) - it has fewer people than Singapore (4.9 million) despite the advantage of land and room for expansion. Australia is a fantastic country in many ways, but in my opinion decentralised urban centres with small populations isn't the most conducive environment for competition. For example, Western Australia might be one of the few places in the world without a chain of convenience stores. There are 7-Eleven stores in the Eastern states but you can be sure W.A. won't be seeing any until there is a population large enough to support such a venture.

    The same applies to food as well. W.A. does have the popular fast food chains like McDonalds, KFC, Subway and Hungry Jacks (the local branding of Burger King) but I think due to the factors above they are quite happy with the status quo. There is no risk of any new international players entering the market and customers are set in their ways; as a result the "menus" are predictable and mundane.

    In-fact, two locally owned fast food chains - Red Rooster and Chicken Treat - have been acquired by the same parent company. Now that the barbequed chicken market has been entirely cornered (as KFC specialises in fried), why should either store need to compete? Naturally, the ACCC (Australian Competition and Consumer Commission) saw no problem with this.

    I'm not an economist, so I may have misunderstood the meaning of "The area of overlap of the merger parties is minor". But if it means what I think it means, then why in Armadale is there a Chicken Treat and a Red Rooster just 300 metres apart? Until recently, both stores were in the same shopping precinct in the south of the city of Mandurah (Miami Village and Miami Plaza). In most areas there would be one of each store inside the same 1km radius.

    I suspect the true meaning behind these words is that the area of overlap is minor in eastern Australia, where Chicken Treat doesn't operate any stores. W.A. is Australia's most important state economically thanks to the mining boom but as usual out of sight, out of mind with regards to other matters.

    Going overseas is always a good experience, and one reason for that is the different food. Irrespective of how this article may sound, I don't live off fast food! I do however enjoy discovering which deliciously unhealthy alternatives are available abroad given the lack of variety and competition in Australia.

    Singapore never fails to impress.

    For a start, McDonald's in Singapore continues to sell the Big Breakfast - a delicious sausage patty with scrambled eggs, a hash brown and a muffin in a polystyrene container. I had always been under the impression that the Big Breakfast was as synonymous with the McDonald's brand as the Big Mac - but in Australia the option was taken off the menu several years ago.

    Topped off with one of Singapore's most popular drinks, iced Milo, it makes for a great start to the day.

    A McDonald's Big Breakfast with an Iced Milo

    KFC is another major fast food chain in Singapore and are second probably only to the United States as far as range is concerned (and by that I mean they don't have the KFC Double Down!). KFC in Singapore is home to the most delectable fast food snacks going around; cheesy fries. Cheesy fries are not hard to come by even in Australia, but to be able to get them cheaply at a fast food store? Not a chance.

    The cheesy fries from KFC consist of thin fries dripping in melted cheese and mayonaise as well as some chopped spring onions.

    The KFC store closest to City Hall Interchange MRT; formerly a joint operation between Taco Bell, Pizza Hut and KFC. Many years ago, the Taco Bell area of the store had a giant bell to ring if you were satisfied with your order. Since the operations split, KFC retained the ground floor location while the Pizza Hut is now several levels above it in the DigiLife Funan IT Mall.

    KFC cheesy fries

    But the pi??ce de r??sistance is the KFC Bandito Pocket (advertised as the Bandito Pockett with two T's). A very slightly toasted flour wrap enclosing a hot and spicy boneless piece of zinger chicken with some salads topped off with chili sauce. In Singapore the KFC stores have their own sauce dispensers so you can choose how much sauce you would like (unless you get take away in which case you receive sauce sachets).

    KFC Bandito Pockett

    If KFC isn't your thing but you're still in the mood for some fried chicken you might be out of luck in Singapore. But fortunately Singapore is just a 13 hour flight from London, and London is southern fried chicken's home away from home (home being southern USA of course!).

    You have to hand it to the English, even though it mainly appears to be Pakistani's running the stores, they sure know how to imitate. The store I went to was called Hollywood Fried Chicken in West Brompton and it is said that there are around 1700 such fried chicken stores in London. Most use the same sort of colours as KFC (ie. red and white) and use a southern American city or state name in the title (ie. Kansas Fried Chicken, Texas Fried Chicken, Tennessee Fried Chicken, Dallas Fried Chicken etc).

    Image Image
    Hollywood Fried Chicken in West Brompton, instead of the KFC branding "Hot and Spicy" it is called "Hot and Tasty".

    Pretty much everything you'd find on the KFC menu - plus more - at a lower price. Not to mention, more of it. For 3 or 4 pounds, I was able to buy a full variety meal of 5 pieces of chicken, chips and a drink. The same thing at KFC would set you back 5 pounds, with only 2 pieces of chicken.

    I'm sure experiences differ from store to store, but I found the staff at Hollywood friendlier and more in-tune with the needs of a foreign customer. At KFC there was an evident language barrier (bearing in mind this is the heart of London, I was speaking English so the issue wasn't on my end) and it took 5 minutes to order a simple meal. No such problem at Hollywood where I think the staff went to extra effort to ensure the meal was correct.

    The fried chicken joints in London get a bad wrap, the theory being they tend to crop up in lower socio-economic areas and indirectly contribute to a lower standard of living by existing in place of a proper local restaurant or small business retail store. I feel this is harsh. Again, I'm sure experiences differ from store to store and person to person but if I was in London I would go back to one of the imitation fried chicken stores over KFC (and certainly over the "boutique local businesses" which MPs wish were there in its place) if for no other reason than more menu variety and value for money.

    The fast food industry may be lagging behind in Australia but it is good to know that it remains vibrant elsewhere.
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