KFC returns to its Southern roots as new stores debut

LOUISVILLE, KY: After years of downplaying its deep-fryer allegiance, KFC is again embracing its Southern roots and the fried chicken that made it famous.

LOUISVILLE, KY: After years of downplaying its deep-fryer allegiance, KFC is again embracing its Southern roots and the fried chicken that made it famous.

A series of new stores opening across the country will display the restaurant's full name, Kentucky Fried Chicken, which had been reduced in recent years to the healthier-sounding acronym. The new stores will also display a variety of past KFC slogans, such as "Finger-lickin' good" and "Sunday dinner, seven days a week."

"We're going back to our Southern roots because people told us they love Kentucky Fried Chicken," said Bonnie Warschauer, KFC's PR director.

Seeking broad attention for the change, which includes new Southern-tinged menu offerings like yams, the chain gave USA Today an exclusive print-media look at its first new store in Louisville, KY, on April 19. CNN was given a broadcast exclusive.

It followed those reports with a press release on Business Wire and b-roll for broadcasters.

The chain plans 49 more new stores this year. Precise markets have not been determined, but they will include a mix of urban and suburban locations. Stores will include both company-owned and franchise outlets.

KFC will support the openings with media outreach, said Warschauer. All media relations will be done in-house, she said.

KFC decided about two months ago to give USA Today the exclusive because "USA Today is America's paper. It covers so many different stakeholders," Warschauer said.

The decision on CNN came about two weeks before the Louisville store opened.

Coverage has been extensive. B-roll on the new store had been picked up by 70 broadcast outlets. Other Gannett-owned newspapers have picked up the USA Today coverage.

"I can't believe the attention we got," says Warschauer.

KFC is owned by Yum Brands, which recently reported a 14% increase in quarterly per-share earnings and a 4% quarterly jump in US sales for KFC.

The new store design is part of a brand revamp that KFC began two years ago. Late last year, it hired Weber Shandwick as its new AOR after Edelman walked away from the business.

KFC has been buffeted by many factors, including attacks from animal-rights group PETA over how the restaurant's suppliers handle chickens.

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