“You won’t find the colonel on the marquee or signage,” KFC president John Cywinski told the Associated Press yesterday, “but you’ll find more abstract references to our heritage.”
That’s in reference to the absence of Kentucky Fried Chicken founder Col. Harland Sanders’ image on anything tied to its new fast casual restaurant project, KFC eleven.
- The cornpone character who figured out the correct combination of 11 herbs and spices that flavored the world’s most popular fast-food chicken …
- The most recognizable face in the world save for Jesus’s …
- The man whose chicken launched a million heart bypasses … is done as far as this new concept goes.
I get it. It’s the chain’s way of saying “the Colonel is the past, this is au courant,” that it needs a clean break from the proud but calorie-laden legacy of Kentucky Fried Chicken built by Sanders.
And perhaps it’s right, that a new look and public image will make a fresh start for what is supposed to be a fresher food chain, one with food targeted to more health-conscious types rather than tailgaters, couch potatoes and picnickers.
Yet contained in its logo are to undeniable links to the past: the mention of “eleven” and the silhouette of a chicken.
Not exactly what I’d call a clean break, but who asked me?
McDonald’s could get away with dumping Ronald McDonald. I scarcely remember the last time I saw his made-up mug on any of its products—mostly because I scarcely ever go to McDonald’s—so we’re comfortable with just seeing the Golden Arches on boxes, cups and wrappers.
And I suppose KFC could just use KFC branded packaging and signage sans le Colonel and still get the message across.
But to create a logo that says “you can get chicken here, and it’s seasoned liked the original recipe you get at our original chain—but we don’t want you to think of the Colonel” just seems odd.
I haven’t talked to him yet about this, but I have no doubt that Fmr. Kentucky Gov. John Y. Brown, Jr. one of two men who bought Kentucky Fried Chicken from Sanders in 1964, will not approve. Last we talked—in fact every time we have talked over the last few years—the Colonel and his remarkable popularity after a half century always comes up. To him, the chain and the man are inseparable.
But then again, this is not the same chain—if it lives long enough to become a chain. Currently one is under construction at the end of Bardstown Road in the Highlands. Rumor has it another is under construction in Louisville’s south end on Preston Hwy., though I’ve not verified it.
Those test units, I’m sure, will endure rigorous scrutiny before any future rollout occurs. And even if the corporation deems the concept worthy of duplication, will KFC franchisees be willing to build them—maybe even convert current KFCs to KFC eleven?
Brown’s growth formula was, “If one works, build a second, and if that works, do it again.” That was a hell of a lot easier in the 1960s and early 1970s, when KFC grew from 650 to 3,500 units—without closing a single store. But there’s no way that’s going to happen with KFC eleven. The domestic marketplace has no room for it—without killing off competitors, anyway. And my, my, the competition is really good.
While it’s not as though the chain is killing off the Colonel—which, if eleven scores a perfect 10, it’s not out of the realm of possibility it could happen in the KFC chain—it’s a bit of a sad day seeing the ol’ boy’s face shelved. It certainly served the company well in its expansion to more than 10,000 stores, yet now the corporation says it’s time to give it a rest.
What do you think: Is this good or not for KFC? Feel free to comment.