KFC ditches Colonel and bones in new restaurant

'KFC eleven' will serve boneless chicken and rice bowls to woo millennials, but does that really make it upscale?

By Jason Notte Jul 17, 2013 2:10PM
A man walks by a KFC restaurant (© David Silverman/Getty Images)Who needs a white-whiskered old company founder and a namesake entree full of icky bones when there's all that discriminating millennial money to count. Kill the Colonel and debone the chicken -- it's "KFC eleven" time.


Ever eager to show the kids that it's hip to their jive, KFC parent company Yum Brands (YUM) has decided to launch a spin-off chain that ditches the image of Colonel Harland Sanders and boned pieces of its Original Recipe Chicken. Instead, the new test outlet in Louisville, Ky., will serve the boneless chicken the company launched in April, as well as flatbread, rice bowls and salad.


Yum doesn't want to turn off millennials who associate the brand with old things and a pile of bones, so it's trying to forge an identity that clicks with a generation that's increasingly choosing Chipotle Mexican Grill (CMG) and Panera Bread (PNRA) over other fast food.


That new KFC eleven identity -- named for KFC's secret recipe of 11 herbs and spices -- may change what the young folks think, but it may just as likely make them wonder why they can't get a Big Gulp-size drink with their six-piece meal.


We understand that sub-branding is all the rage right now in a very confused fast-food landscape. McDonald's (MCD) has its McCafe, Burger King (BKW) toyed with Whopper bars, but KFC eleven poses a unique challenge for Yum Brands, whose approach to this tactic has been to lump its Pizza Hut, KFC and Taco Bell brands into hybrid restaurants. That approach has become such a fixture in American consumer culture that the group Das Racist turned a song called "Combination Pizza Hut and Taco Bell" into an online hit.


In that context, KFC eleven sure sounds like a place where hungry late-night eaters could snag some chicken, a Big Bite hot dog, a tankard of the sugary drink of their choice and a lottery ticket, doesn't it? But for the record, 7-Eleven isn't a Yum Brands subsidiary and will likely suggest a name change for this franchise after the test location opens in August.


We realize that KFC is playing to a generation that has never known a world without a boneless McNugget, but it's also ignoring the fact that boned chicken is actually doing well in places that aren't ashamed to serve it. KFC says it's just following the lead of DineEquity's (DIN) Applebee's and Darden's (DRI) Red Lobster, which have taken a similar approach. But both of those chains have had their customers plucked by Buffalo Wild Wings (BWLD +0.43%), which has turned extremely bony chicken bits into a thriving business in a slumping casual-dining category.


With even the McNugget slingers at McDonald's flirting with chicken wings, and with bony chicken outlets like Pollo Tropical taking off, KFC's attempt at upscale casual dining reminds millennials and other customers what "upscale" really means in restaurant business jargon: a shameless grab for disposable income.


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24Comments
Jul 17, 2013 3:56PM
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As usual, CORPORATE IDIOTS are fixing something that isn't broken.

 

There's that old saying for a reason;

 

"If it ain't broke, don't FIX it."

Jul 22, 2013 9:31AM
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I remember being a kid, Kentucky Fried Chicken tasted great. There was nothing better. Went and bought some the other day and I was really disappointed . What ever they are doing different now isn't working. Doesn't taste the same and the price is outrageous. Those special herbs and spices have gone.
Jul 17, 2013 5:50PM
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Yikes!  Another reason why I am so glad I was ordered to W. Germany in 1962 instead of the Far East.  I served in Germany for 30 months and I do like KFC as it has always been.  Upscale dining in a KFC?   You gotta be kiddin', millennials. 
Jul 22, 2013 9:31AM
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Since I started a major health kick several years ago I quit eating KFC.  I used to love KFC but every store I went in was just plain nasty and dirty so that kinda turned me off because I was always wondering if the dining room was nasty what was going on in the kitchen.
Jul 22, 2013 11:42AM
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 First they messed    with the name ( It was 'Kentucky FRIED Chicken'.......until someone caved to pressure from the healthy-eating 'police' and renamed it 'KFC'....)  Then they 'canned' the Colonel.   Now they want to abolish his image?    What a bunch of f%#kin' corporate ingrates!    Back in the late 1970s, when I was living up in South Lake Tahoe, when we'd head out on our 'munchies runs'.....'Kentucky Fried Chicken' was IT.   I used to love their BBQ chicken.   I was working at a Denny's at the time.   One week toward the end of December of '79, Colonel Harland Sanders himself stopped in at our restaurant.   He was up there to visit 2 of his stores, but dropped by Denny's to have our 'soup of the day' ( minestrone....if I remember correctly ).   He was a pretty BIG guy....all in his white Colonel suit & sporting a black cane.    He was driving a Cadillac and I think the license plates read DRMSTX1.    I was more excited to meet HIM,   than Ringo Starr....who happened to also stop by twice that same week with a couple of women & some little kids.   He had our fish & chips ( I kept his fork....LOL )  Ringo locked his keys in his rental Chevy Blazer, and the cook and I were out in the parking lot with a wire hanger helping him to break into it.      
Jul 22, 2013 6:56AM
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all of the Kentucky Fried Chicken Restaurant's  where I live in northern California, have all become Popeye's franchises, it's the end of an era. I grew up on the stuff and now it's gone forever, I'm not driving 50 miles or more for freaking chicken.
Jul 22, 2013 11:20AM
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I agree 110% with Neonguy1971; and if you corporate idiots don't believe that just ask the bigger idiots  @ JC Penny. Their profit may not have been the best before they made the complete makeover but it really went in the bucket after their so called "makeover".

 

Jul 17, 2013 2:34PM
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 (If there are no stupid questions, then what kind of questions do stupid people ask?) Oh I know: "….but does that make it upscale?"  - 'priceless.'

Yeah, the first thing I think of when KFC is mentioned is gourmet, 'upscale' dining.
Jul 22, 2013 12:35PM
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I actually went to KFC last night & ordered the boneless chicken.  It wasn't on the menu (went through the drive-thru) so I asked if they had it.  Was told that it was a 2 piece meal with one side, biscuit, & medium drink for $7.89 (over $8.00 w/tax) & I ordered white meat.  When I got home, it looked like I had been given 2 wings.  I thought they had gotten my order wrong, so I went back & went inside.  The manager told me that the chicken was actually their boneless, that the pieces were just small.  I said that I thought that it was awfully expensive for how small the pieces are & that it didn't look anything like it does on TV.  The manager agreed that the pieces are bigger on TV (all fast food does this!) & ended up giving me 5 pieces & an extra side.  Needless to say, I will not be ordering the boneless chicken again.  Plus, the flavor is very lacking.
Jul 22, 2013 12:10PM
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This is a Chinese Company, not Kentuckian.  No Kentuckian would be caught dead eating a bowl of rice, flat bread and a salad.  Get real!  If the Chinese hat the menu so damn much, then why did these ****s buy the company?  So you could introduce people to eating bowls of rice with flatbread?


Get real...  This isn't China and KFC is utterly dead until YUM Brands sells out and gets out.  Peking, go to hell.

Jul 22, 2013 9:13AM
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They shouldnt do that  Ill ask the youngster  who started KFC  if they dont know  CEO will be in big trouble with the shareholders if business went down
Jul 22, 2013 3:50AM
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Bullsh**t...

I went to my local KFC to get an bucket of bone less chicken like I had done on another occasion.  I didn't see it on the menu (it hadn't been previously, either) and asked if they had a boneless bucket.  I was told yes, but there would be a 25 cent surcharge PER PIECE!!!!!  I told them never mind and drove out.   On another occasion a couple of months ago, I gave my order and asked for a SMALL soda and was told that I had to buy a larger size because for some reason (no, I wasn't using a coupon) they wouldn't sell it in that size???.  No amount of asking would get me the smaller size.  I told them to forget the drink, I'd go next door to Carls', Jr. and get the drink, got my chicken and left.

 

They have just 'modernized' their building, but I'm not sure if I'll ever go inside again...

Jul 23, 2013 2:19AM
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Funny how on my keyboard, the lower case I's keep looking like lower case L's.

Jul 23, 2013 2:13AM
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That last one was a mistake, short fingers, I hit the l instead the I, So I'll admit I can't type very well.
Jul 23, 2013 2:08AM
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Oops, also Chicken is spelled with one I, not two. Funny how you could blow it when there's spell check!
Jul 23, 2013 2:04AM
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Oh yeah, I forgot to add that apparently airborne ranger can't spell because there is no z in bones. (he must do a lot of texting)
Jul 17, 2013 4:45PM
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They could just replace the Colonel with Hitler.  I hear that is working great in Asia.
Jul 22, 2013 5:08AM
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I hate the blacks ewwwwwing about the bonez. blacks love chickin.
Jul 17, 2013 4:18PM
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Is that George Zimmerman, pre-jail weight gain, in the picture?
Jul 17, 2013 2:49PM
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KFC will never be "upscale" just scales are inside eating it ,BONCHON is upscale chicken
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