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Many American pizza chains have long been eying Asia as a hot growth opportunity. Pizza Hut, for example, was the first restaurant chain to introduce pizza and Western-style casual dining to China, in 1990, and the first to introduce pizza delivery to China in 2001. Today, Pizza Hut is the top casual dining brand in mainland China, with 400 Pizza Hut Casual Dining restaurants in nearly 100 cities and more than 75 Pizza Hut Home Service delivery units.
Yum! Brands, which operates Pizza Hut and KFC restaurants in China, has staked much of its future on growth in that country. Between the two brands, the company opened 92 restaurants during the 2009 first quarter and plans to open 475 restaurants during the year.
Papa John's operates 130 restaurants in China and 69 in South Korea. The company stated in its 2008 annual report that China would be a focus of future growth.
And when Domino's first opened a restaurant in Japan in 1995, there was not a word in the Japanese language for pepperoni. Now pepperoni is one of the country's most embraced toppings, the company says. Domino's operates more than 180 stores in Japan along with 305 in South Korea. Domino's has yet to make serious inroads into China, though, operating fewer than 10 units there.