KFC Just Announced the Unthinkable. Here's Why It's a Bad Idea

Kentucky Fried Chicken is turning into Kentucky Fried Tofu later this year. This comes as a result of the US brand’s recent announcement that they will be catering a new menu item to new sections of the market in the United Kingdom, who don’t eat chicken.  

This mystery meat, may contain less calories, but the larger question worth asking is will it contain the same authentic brand experience for KFC customers?

I think that it goes without saying that this is a bad move.

Although this isn’t as dramatic as the IHOP to IHOB rebrand, it does raise a few concerns from my perspective. If KFC changed their name to KFU, I think some towns would riot.

So let’s get to the basics of this announcement and why I think it’s a bad idea.

For starters, KFC is a world-renowned fast food chain. Being a leader in the fast-food industry means that they aren’t catering to health enthusiasts.

In fact, they have been doing the opposite–very profitably–for decades, now.  

However, every company goes through periods where they feel they need to catch onto the next big thing. Unfortunately for KFC, I don’t think they’ve established a proper market fit.  

The Colonel’s secret sauce is in their branding. The white-haired founder lives on posthumously in commercials and franchise logos, and represents a staple in American comfort food.

What do you think about KFC what comes to mind?  

Probably their home-style biscuits and gravy, mashed potatoes, green beans, and of course their famous chicken.  This is because they’ve done an excellent job of creating something that everyone in the world can easily recognize.

Despite this recent blunder, there are still a few takeaways we can glean from this experience.

So what can other companies learn?

1. Continue doing what made you successful

As businesses strive to increase profitability, it’s important to make sure that the main thing, remains the main thing.

Jamba Juice, Protein Bar, and even Subway cater to a health-conscious demographic. Customers who choose to eat at these restaurants aren’t going to start eating at KFC suddenly. It’s important that you let your competitors deviate into newer markets where you don’t have a presence, while you stay tried and true for your loyal customers.  

2. Don’t try to please everyone.

Imagine if KFC began offering a variety of new products: buttered popcorn to complement the popcorn chicken, BBQ ribs for a true Southern experience, and even chicken and waffles to make sure that everyone got what they wanted.

The menu would become too convoluted, kitchen staffs would be in pandemonium over entirely new food items, and sales would plummet.  

The perfect recipe for pleasing no one is trying to please everyone.

3. Improve strengths, not weaknesses.

Everyone has weaknesses. There isn’t a single company on the planet that is perfect. However, working on strengths is the fastest way to get better and stay in your own lane.

When everyone else is trying to compensate for weaknesses, focus on improving what is already working. If a particular product line is doing well, devote more research and developent money towards that. If another product is undesirable, ditch it and move on to something else.  

Being able to launch successful products can be challenging. There’s a reason that Apple doesn’t make driverless cars, and Tesla doesn’t make smartphones.

Being a leader in any market means having sound judgment in terms of what not to focus on.

From my own personal experience, I’d suggest that anytime you are thinking of going into a new market, you make sure that it won’t alienate current customers, or deviate too far from your current successful product lines.

Companies I’ve worked with in my career, usually are best served to stick to the plan and continue doing what’s been working well for them. When companies try to take on too much, too fast–in multiple directions–that energy often tapers out and sales start to fall. Momentum and timing are keys to success in business, as in life.

Don’t try to make everyone happy, and don’t cater to vegetarians if you are the world’s leading chicken chain!

Carol Humphreys