Burger King Opens First China Restaurant

Burger King opened its first Chinese outlet in Shanghai on Monday, hoping to take a bite out of rival McDonald's (MCD) profits in the booming Chinese fast-food market.

The company-owned restaurant sits in the heart of the Chinese commercial hub just opposite a Buddhist temple. A massive hamburger sign marks the opening.

Along with famous menu offerings such as the Whopper, the outlet will sell items customized to Chinese tastes, including a hamburger seasoned with the spicy mala sauce of southwestern China, the company said.

"We are enthusiastic about our new restaurant in Shanghai," Greg Brenneman, chairman and CEO of Miami, Fla.-based Burger King Corp. (search) , said in a prepared statement.

Burger King has a lot of catching up to do in an already crowded Chinese fast-food market dominated by U.S. chains McDonald's Corp. and KFC Corp.

Oak Brook, Ill.-based McDonald's plans to open about 100 more restaurants in China this year, adding to the more than 600 it now operates in the country. Long-range plans call for 1,000 McDonald's in China by 2008.

Louisville, Ky.-based Yum Brands Inc.(YUM), owner of chicken-chain KFC, has also been expanding in China with its other brands, including Taco Bell and Pizza Hut.

Shanghai is the natural point of entry for new restaurant chains, boasting some of China's most adventurous, sophisticated and wealthy consumers. Along with Western fast-food outlets, the city also boasts a large number of Starbucks coffee joints and other up-market chains.