As Chick-fil-A’s business explodes, KFC is realising it needs to make some major changes if it wants to keep up.
KFC announced last week it is publicly recommitting to the quality of its products, with employee retraining and a new satisfaction guarantee. The company is calling the process “Re-Colonelization.”
“Customers were saying, ‘Your food doesn’t taste the same,'” Jason Marker, KFC’s US president, said Monday in a press event. “We’re not making the food the same way the Colonel had, and we’re not making food in what he described as ‘the hard way.’ Today marks the end of that.”
Effective immediately, if customers aren’t satisfied with their KFC order, the restaurant will remake whatever aspect of their meal fell short. The chain has rolled out an extensive “chicken mastery certification” program, spending more than 100,000 hours retraining more than 20,000 employees.
KFC’s focus on going back to its roots comes after a few years of incredible sales growth at rival Chick-fil-A.
In 2012, Chick-fil-A passed KFC as the No. 1 chicken chain in the US by sales, despite having fewer locations. Last year, Chick-fil-A says its system-wide sales topped $6.1 billion, with same-store sales growth in the double-digits.
Much of the growth in recent years has been rooted in major changes — many of them which have helped differentiate Chick-fil-A from KFC.
The chain has centered its menu on healthy and higher-quality offerings, launching a premium coffee line and a new grilled chicken recipe in 2014, plus a kale and broccolini salad earlier this year. Chick-fil-A is increasingly marketing itself as a family-centric restaurant with dine-in potential, rolling out table service and “Mum’s Valet” for parents with young children.
With these changes, Chick-fil-A has portrayed itself as a community-minded place to take a break, setting itself apart from the negative reputations that plague the fast-food industry.
Now, it looks as though KFC is doing much the same thing.
While KFC isn’t trying to be as family-focused as Chick-fil-A, it is similarly attempting to establish itself as an authentic and higher-quality dining option.
The recent Colonel-centric marketing campaign and even the idea of “Re-Colonelization” puts the chain’s historical and culinary roots front-and-center. New menu items such as Nashville Hot Chicken similarly emphasise craft and creativity, attempting to disabuse customers of the notion that KFC simply sells cheap, low-quality chicken.
“We’re like a football team… that was once great,” Marker said in the event. “And [now] the fans are kind of like, ‘What are you guys doing? Come on.'”
As KFC plans its comeback, it’s going to have to compete with Chick-fil-A. Fortunately for KFC, Chick-fil-A has created a playbook full of notes on how to win over customers from coast-to-coast — and the chicken chain seems ready to imitate some of its rival’s plays.