Will KFC Keep the Fried?
In my hometown I remember the big bucket sign that proudly announced Kentucky Fried Chicken. Yes, I understand that times have changed, diets and eating habits change, and also restaurants change (except most of the diners I have visited). But is Yum! Brands confusing consumers and shooting itself in the foot by trying to change the image of Kentucky Fried Chicken with a new name and menu? In the August 12 Bloomberg Businessweek article, “Why KFC Franchisees Are Squawking” it seems that the franchisees are not happy and confused by the name/menu change:
“Marilynn Pankratz fondly recalls the time Colonel Sanders donned an apron at her Kentucky Fried Chicken restaurant and taught the staff how to fry chicken according to his Original Recipe. Ask her if KFC’s current president, Roger Eaton, would do the same, and she’s off: “Roger Eaton and his company don’t give a rat’s ass,” says Pankratz, who has run KFC franchises since 1963. “They hire marketing guys with blue blazers who tell us what to do with our damn stores. But it’s one thing to be behind the big mahogany desk calling the shots and another to be down here in the trenches.” Pankratz is part of a group of franchisees who blame KFC’s falling sales on Eaton’s decision in early 2009 to emphasize grilled chicken and sandwiches over KFC’s bone-in fried fare. Managers at the Yum! Brands -owned chain say they’re trying to reach health-conscious, on-the-go consumers. Many franchisees say the strategy confuses customers and hurts the brand.”
Kentucky Fried Chicken offers a unique food product that other restaurants have tried (and failed) to copy, so why is Yum! Brands now trying to copy the other chains?
“The civil war over what KFC should stand for erupted last year when the company introduced grilled chicken with the slogan “Unthink KFC.” Some franchisees saw it as a bald effort to distance the chain from its much-cherished Southern fried legacy. “Kentucky Fried Chicken hit the streets with 11 herbs and spices, pressure-cooked, and by and large the general public doesn’t give a damn how many calories are in it,” says Wallace Fowler, who runs 60 franchises. “
I do not eat at Kentucky Fried Chicken everyday. In fact, I may only visit once or twice a year. But when I do, there is nothing like the fried chicken from Kentucky Fried Chicken. The one thing that makes Kentucky Fried Chicken is the fried chicken. No bones about it. Yum! Brands, stay true to your product, and your market.