KFC is one of the UK's biggest fast-food chains, with more than 900 stores spread across the country. All but a handful are franchised. It has been present in the UK for more than 50 years, originally as Kentucky Fried Chicken, making it the longest-established of the three core brands owned by global parent Yum! Brands. Pizza Hut has a smaller presence in this market, but performance was mixed for several years, with the result that Yum sold the UK business in 2012 to private equity owners who continue to run them as a franchise. Yum's third brand Taco Bell is a much newer arrival. A handful of outlets opened in Britain in 1986, but closed again in the early 1990s. A new attempt was launched in 2010, and the footprint has very slowly expanded across the country. By 2020 there were 50 outlets nationally. The three chains operate independently of one another. KFC is the most successful in financial terms by a considerable margin, though it suffered a disastrous reverse during 2018 as a result of a change of supply chain distributor. Almost two-thirds of stores had to close for a week or more after running out of fresh chicken. An incredibly simple but clever marketing campaign - in which the chain apologised with press ads bearing a headline which reversed its logo to read 'FCK' - earned widespread headlines as well as several industry awards. The first British outlet of KFC was opened in Preston, Lancashire in 1965, almost a decade before McDonald's arrived in the UK. Local franchisee Ray Allen built up a chain of 250 stores before retiring in the 1980s, at around the same time local rights were transferred to what was then Trusthouse Forte. Parent Yum reported system sales of $1.5bn (a little over £1.1bn) in 2020. Paula McKenzie replaced Martin Shuker as managing director in 2020. See also the full Adbrands profile of Yum! Brands.
Capsule checked 23rd June 2020
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Marketer Moves 13th Jul 2021: New CMO at KFC UK. See Marketer Moves (members only).
Adbrands Weekly Update 15th Nov 2018: Ads Of The Week: "Chicken's Here To Stay". Seems even KFC gets its own special Christmas spot this year. Actually, we have no complaints, because this film from Mother is just great, with a funny idea and gorgeous photography, although we suspect that the star of the film comes almost entirely from a computer rather than a coop. For what it's worth, it's also another bold throwdown against customers who would prefer not to make a direct connection between those breadcrumbed pieces in a box and the living creature whence they originate. Two years ago, Mother's debut campaign for KFC generated almost 500 complaints for featuring a strutting live bird. Many complaints suggested the ad was "disrespectful" of chickens. You can't really make the same argument this time, because this chicken is clearly one bad son of a hen. There's a reason it's not called Kentucky Fried Turkey.
Adbrands Social Media 28th May 2018: KFC is aiming to rehabilitate itself with UK customers after its disastrous meltdown earlier this year when almost two-thirds of all stores had to close for days on end when they ran out of chicken. The best way to win back fans in situations like this is to fall back on those traditional brand values. So no strutting chickens or clever jokes this time. Mother has resurrected Colonel Sanders in KFC's UK advertising for the first time in more than 40 years to remind us of everything the brand historically stands for.
Adbrands Weekly Update 22nd Feb 2018: In an almost inconceivable screw-up by a major foodservice operator, hundreds of Yum Brands' 900 KFC outlets in the UK have been closed since Saturday because they have run out of chicken. The cause was Yum's decision, on grounds of cost, to move the chain's delivery contract from hospitality specialist Bidvest to Deutsche Post's DHL service, which has been attempting to manage all logistics from a single central distribution centre. At the peak of the crisis on Sunday, more than two-thirds of KFC restaurants - almost 650 outlets - were closed. Even at 8pm on Wednesday - five days after the problems began - more than a fifth of stores remained shut. A similar situation plagued Burger King in the UK in 2012 when it too shifted its contract from Bidvest to DHL, but far fewer stores were affected.
Adbrands Weekly Update 20th Jul 2017: Ads of the Week: "The Whole Chicken". Mother's debut for KFC UK is typically quirky - the agency is gradually returning to those oddball types of ads with which it first made its name in the 1990s. There's actually something rather dark about using live healthy chickens to advertise their own deep-fried remains. And we're not too sure about wanting to eat "the whole chicken", feet, feathers, giblets, comb and all. And how exactly does "nothing but the chicken" accommodate the addition of the Colonel's blend of herbs and spices and batter? Perhaps it's best not to think about all that and just celebrate the undeniable screen presence of this particular fowl.
Adbrands Weekly Update 26th Nov 2015: Ads of the Week: "Friendship Bucket". BBH London takes a very different - but equally successful - tack in its seasonal campaign for KFC. Instead of the atmospheric mood pieces it's produced most recently for KFC to celebrate different food themes, this new ad draws some inspiration from TV's Mr & Mrs game show. How well do you know your best mate? You win a piece of chicken every time you both give the same answer to a personal question. The results are warmly endearing and surprisingly enjoyable, proving that nothing touches the heart more effectively than simple friendship...
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