KFC is picking boneless chicken as its next big product innovation to drive sales and make its menu more dynamic, according to reports.
This morning the Louisville, Ky.-based brand of more than 17,000 restaurants worldwide changed its website to feature a countdown to April 14, the day Original Recipe Boneless chicken is to be launched. The chain is also teasing the 14th as “The Greatest Day in Chicken History” with two YouTube videos.
A combo of two pieces of Original Recipe Boneless with a side and drink will sell for a suggest price of $4.99.
The first commercial in a marketing campaign for the new item is set to debut April 14. The ad will be built around the tagline, “I ate the bones,” which is what a concerned customer starts yelling after eating a boneless piece of chicken without realizing it’s the new version of KFC’s Original Recipe.
For much of the past few years, sales at KFC in the United States lagged far behind those for sibling brand Taco Bell and even KFC’s performance in foreign markets, particularly China.
Marketing and new-product execution led to the chain’s erratic sales performance in the United States. In 2009, KFC’s longtime “Finger-lickin’ good” slogan was replaced briefly by the tagline “Unthink,” meant to call attention to products like Kentucky Grilled Chicken that failed to sustain sales after initial bouts of trial. Similarly, later rollouts of new products like the Double Down and Doublicious sandwiches produced a large rush of trial and media attention, but did not maintain sales levels.
Yet David Novak, chief executive of parent company Yum! Brands Inc. in Louisville, remarked during a second-quarter conference call in 2011 that KFC faced a larger structural problem of its franchisees adhering too closely to the brand’s heritage as a purveyor of only chicken on the bone.
“KFC outside the U.S. is a more dynamic, big-box format that’s more akin to McDonald’s,” Novak said at the time. “There’s been a lot more innovation built into the menu in most countries outside the U.S., because Col. Sanders set the U.S. brand up with a small-box focus on chicken on the bone and sticking to your knitting. It’s hard for us to turn it into the multi-variety, multi-daypart brand we have in emerging markets. And we don’t have a franchise community as enlightened as we have outside the U.S.”
KFC has spent much of the past few years refranchising its 4,400 locations in the United States and recently indicated it had largely completed that effort. The chain's domestic same-store sales recovered to a 3-percent gain for fiscal 2012 after they fell 2 percent in 2011 in the United States.
In addition to Original Recipe Boneless, KFC has recently added products that feasibly could fit into the lunch daypart better or capitalize on consumers’ growing penchant for snacking and eating the car, including Original Recipe Bites, the Li’l Bucket Kids Meal, and relaunched Chicken Littles and Pot Pies.
Contact Mark Brandau at [email protected].
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