How South Korea’s bb.q Chicken became one of the fastest-growing chains in the U.S.
June 5, 2023
Before bb.q Chicken could become one of the fastest-growing restaurants in the United States, it had to clear up some confusion about its name.
Despite what most Americans might assume, “B-B-Q” in this case does not stand for barbecue. It stands for “best of the best quality,” and refers to the chain’s Korean-style fried chicken.
In bb.q’s home country of South Korea, the three letters are so closely associated with its signature product that they stand alone as the brand’s logo, not unlike McDonald’s golden arches. But here in the U.S., a restaurant advertising “bb.q” and serving Korean fried chicken doesn’t quite add up.
“The first couple years were pretty rough for us,” said Andrew Lee, senior manager of strategy and marketing. “The consumer education phase was really long.”
The chain, which came to the U.S. in 2007, started by tweaking its logo. It added the word “Chicken” and an illustration of the namesake bird. But that still raised the obvious question: Is the chicken barbecued? A recent refresh sought to offer even more clarity, inserting the tagline “Korea’s finest fried chicken” to bb.q’s branding.
But what really helped translate bb.q Chicken to the American masses was TV. Looking to capitalize on the growing popularity of Korean pop culture and cuisine worldwide, the chain’s South Korean headquarters began strategically investing in the country’s entertainment exports. It bought placements in popular TV series like Netflix’s “Crash Landing On You,” which became an international hit after it aired in 2019.
Now, many first-time customers tell Lee they heard about bb.q from a TV show.
“Korean culture has become so mainstream since 2019,” Lee said. “That’s where we really see a spike in people’s interest in our brand.”