Monday, August 16, 2010

The Wrong Questions

KFC franchise owners are complaining about their corporate managers undercutting their brand. The big picture is to justify the continued decline of what was once a giant on the fast-food landscape. I still remember late 80's, early 90's Kentucky Fried Chicken, with mashed potatoes and gravy and those biscuits. I could have lived off those biscuits.

There are a lot of reasons the article discusses in regards to the decline. Marketing strategy, botched online promotions, internal waste of product, and the difference between the corporate office and the francisee.

That's part of the problem: there was zero discussion of product quality or service. To a big corporate entity, especially in America these days, product quality and service just don't seem to be that big of a deal. Marketing is of pinnacle importance, because the focus today is on selling the widget, not the widget itself.

Because even though I was rasied with the branding of Kentucky Fried Chicken, and those biscuits, I haven't darkened the door of a KFC in what feels like decades. Why do I need to? I can get far better chicken and prompt, friendly service at any number of regional chains - Zaxby's, and Caine's stand out noticiably - when I'm outside Orleans Parish. Locally, McHardy's serves up some of the best tasting fried chicken I've ever experienced, Manchu's has outstanding wings, and every Popeye's in New Orleans just brings it when taste is concerned. That's before sitting down at legendary establishments like Lil' Dizzy's, Dunbar's, Dooky's Chase or Willie Mae's Scotch House. Or the Glynn County traditions at Brunswick Station, 4th of May and Grandy's. And dare I fail to mention the irrational yet exhultant joy that is purchasing and consuming any item from the Chick-Fil-A menu.

Against that impressively deep bench of fried-poultry establishments, KFC deigned to make me wait an inordinant amount of time for rubbery fare, despite my upbringing and past devotion to original recipie and extra crispy. The biscuit was stale, as if baked under the heat lamps and left there. I gave them chances at redemption, even in different area codes, to no avail. Product and service were less important than marketing, and when I started to see Taco-Bell's and Pizza Huts sharing buildings with KFC's, I knew it was over.

Because if you screw up fried chicken in the South, I will never trust you to know how to grill it.

And if you think you have to team up with other dining establishments to get me in the door, you need to make sure they have not also been disappointments since Back to the Future III.

The childhood memories had faded, and all I was doing was going through the motions. If I was going to spend my dollar on fried chicken, I decided to focus on other places where that dollar was rewarded.

But y'all keep worrying about how you look on TV. I gave most of that up, too.



DADvocate said...

It's sad but true. Working in marketing research, we see many companies that want to sell the idea of the food more than the food. It may work once, but pictures and words can't fool taste buds.

I've started buying most of my fried chicken at a small grocery with a deli on the way home from work. I guess the chicken is a franchise called Charlie Biggs. It's damn good, the pieces are huge, especially the breasts and it's a little cheaper than KFC. If they have a special going, it's a lot cheaper.

Cousin Pat from Georgia said...

Oh, those small grocery delis. I can actually feel my arteries cry out in protest as I think of the closest place to pay by the pound for lunch.