KFC
Representational image; KFC opened its first branch in Tibet Tuesday, March 8, 2016.Reuters

American fast-food chain KFC opened a branch in Tibet Tuesday, becoming the first major Western restaurant chain to enter the autonomous region in China. The restaurant opened in the Tibetan capital of Lhasa to long queues, Xinhua reported. 

The KFC restaurant opened in Tibet despite concerns raised by spiritual leader Dalai Lama over cruelty to chickens. The Dalai Lama had opposed the entry of KFC to Tibet when it was first mooted in 2004. KFC already has around 5,000 joints across China. 

Yum Brands Inc, the parent company of KFC and other brands such as Pizza Hut and Taco Bell, had announced its plan to open a restaurant in Tibet in December 2015. China is Yum Brands' biggest market, and slow sales at KFC and Pizza Hut joints in the country last year forced the company to cut its 2015 earnings forecast. 

The brand's sales had been hit following reports that one of its suppliers had provided expired meat to the chain. 

According to Xinhua, more foreign brands are seeking to enter Tibet. "Other fast-food brands operating in Tibet over the past few years have showed people here have a big appetite for fried chicken and hamburgers," Chen Biao, a manager of the shopping centre where the KFC joint opened, told the agency.

Tibet has been under China's control since 1950, and its government runs in exile from India, demanding autonomy for the region.