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Yum Brands' franchisee KBP Brands is testing SMS marketing at 162 participating KFC restaurants.

Major KFC franchisee KBP Brands is testing an SMS loyalty program

KBP Brands is testing Vibes’ SMS and mobile wallet program at 162 participating KFC restaurants in five states.

KBP Brands, an Overland Park, Kansas-based Yum Brands’ franchisee, is testing an SMS and mobile wallet program at 162 participating KFC restaurants in Texas, New Jersey, Oklahoma, Arkansas and Buffalo, New York.

The program is powered by Vibes, a unified mobile messaging platform that also works with companies like Chipotle, Polo Ralph Lauren and Lego. According to Vibes, 99% of text messages are opened, versus less than 20% of emails, while its mobile wallet can drive downloads of loyalty cards and supplement brands’ apps. Through this test, KBP will offer unique promotions to customers and reward them for repeat visits or opting into the SMS program. The solution will also deliver real-time messaging, such as limited-time promotions and local menu tests. The goal is to increase traffic and increase consumer engagement, according to a press release.

“The text messaging program fills a gap in our local marketing toolkits, serving as an efficient mechanism to deliver relevant and timely offers to individuals. A broad value at a national level can be a challenge, especially by geographic area. We wanted the ability to activate compelling messaging quickly based on our restaurants’ unique needs,” Tonya Mangels, vice president of marketing activation, KBP Brands, said in a statement. “The quick-service restaurant industry is highly competitive, and SMS marketing is a cost-effective tool that will help us both attract new customers and retain current customers.”

According to a KFC U.S. spokesperson, KBP is the only franchise organization in the system testing this solution. During parent company Yum Brands’ Investor Day event last week, KFC CEO Sabir Sami said the chain’s loyalty programs have been “highly successful” around the world and added, “we expect to roll it out in the U.S. next year.” He said such programs drive check and frequency, while also allowing the company to collect customer data and better target them accordingly.

Several brands have recently added loyalty programs or iterated existing loyalty programs to create more personalized messaging, including McDonald’s, which recently stepped up its SMS communication to complement its MyMcDonalds Rewards program. SMS marketing is expected to grow by over 20% through 2025, according to Grandview Research, which cites SMS’ ability to eliminate paper costs and create a fast and convenient way to interact with “target customers.”

That said, KFC’s spokesperson said the Vibes/KBP test is not part of the chain’s anticipated 2023 loyalty rollout.

KBP operates nearly 700 KFCs and nearly 200 Taco Bells in 28 states.

Contact Alicia Kelso at [email protected]

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