Gather ‘round, youngsters, and learn about the long-ago day when restaurant chains would all but hold a parade and declare a national holiday when they added a menu item. There was none of this special-for-a-weekend stuff. The unveiling of an item like Chicken McNuggets or the McDLT was a blockbuster event. Ditto for the extension into a new style of pizza, or the addition of a new variety of taco.
Imagine the hoopla that was mustered when a big brand changed its core product. No wonder some of the most-talked about introductions of the last two decades came from a player that had to change its name to accommodate a major rollout. KFC (nee Kentucky Fried Chicken) clearly ruled the roost on shoot-the-moon changes.
We forget today about products like the Colonel’s Rotisserie Gold (a 1990s non-fried chicken), Oven Roasted Twister (more recent non-fried chicken), Tender Roast (still more non-fried), Kentucky Grilled Chicken (ditto), Hot Wings (freezer-to-fryer wings that showed blood marks because of being frozen), Skinless, and Chicken Little chicken sliders, to name just a few.
Now comes considerable hoopla for yet another alternative to the chain’s mainstay product: Boneless fried chicken, or what sounds like supersized chicken fingers or nuggets. This from a chain that prompted the industry to coin a clumsy bit of jargon—bone-in chicken—to label the sector that KFC largely cultivated and long dominated (the fried chicken sector is now dominated, by of all concepts, McDonald’s, courtesy of its various nuggets and bites.)
KFC’s publicity machine is chugging at full bore for the Friday introduction, which, like so many earlier rollouts, is being hailed as a turning point for a chain that’s clearly had its challenges.
Maybe this will be indeed be a game-changer. KFC’s parent, Yum! Brands, has hit gold with recent products for its other restaurant holdings. Consider the new Doritos tacos added at Taco Bell. Or think back to the pasta dishes that Pizza Hut added a few years ago. Management thought the pasta line would eventually generate an additional billion dollars in sales, and I for one believed them. The promised value and convenience seemed perfectly attuned to the times.
But management soon spoke with far more reserve about the pastas, just as KFC toned down the bluster about Kentucky Grilled Chicken (which, by the way, was roasted, not grilled. But, hey, that’s marketing.)
Will boneless chicken be the long awaited silver bullet? Maybe. But until time proves if market evaluations were on the money, I’d counsel the brand not to think of changing its name to KBC.