KFC is hoping to recreate the success of Nashville Hot Chicken by taking a new, regional cult classic to the masses.
On Friday, the chicken chain announced restaurants in Pittsburgh and Mobile, Alabama are launching a test of the new Georgia Gold Honey Mustard BBQ fried chicken and tenders. After the test finishes on September 4, the chain will evaluate if and when the dish will debut nationwide.
The sweet and tangy chicken is intended to capture the flavour of “grown-up honey mustard — sweet with attitude,” Kevin Hochman, KFC’s US CMO, said in a statement.
Georgia Gold highlights some of the crispier chicken options at KFC, following the chain’s summer Extra Crispy campaign, and will be available as Extra Crispy Chicken Tenders, Chicken Littles, and Extra Crispy Chicken.
Business Insider had an opportunity to try a version of the new chicken dish while visiting KFC’s headquarters in May. KFC may have made tweaks since then (at the time, the dish was being developed under the name Carolina Gold chicken), but based on flavour alone, there wasn’t much to change — the chicken was some of the best KFC has ever served.
Many Southern barbecue fans, like Nashville locals before them, may be suspicious of the chicken’s culinary credentials, with KFC saying it chose to test the dish in Mobile and Pittsburgh to get both Northern and Southern perspectives on Georgia Gold.
KFC’s Georgia Gold chicken is tangy and packs a flavorful punch, drawing from barbecue traditions of Georgia and parts of South Carolina.
It’s a flavour that’s familiar to anyone who has dipped fried chicken in honey mustard sauce. However, the chain doesn’t over-do the flavour, with more muted honey sweetness than aggressive mustard flavoring. Georgia Gold is an ideal flavour combination for customers who enjoy the slight sweetness of the chain’s Nashville Hot Chicken, but aren’t fans of spice.
Georgia Gold clearly follows in the footsteps of Nashville Hot Chicken, which KFC’s head chef told Business Insider was his favourite new menu item he had developed in his 16 years at the chain.
“The whole idea of Nashville hot was, unless you lived in Nashville and had an hour to wait in line, or had a bunch of money and lived in New York City or Los Angeles, you had no access to the Nashville hot,” CMO Kevin Hochman told Business Insider in May.
Now, the chain appears to want to do the same with Georgia Gold — a flavour that is, perhaps, even more obscure that Nashville Hot.
Nashville Hot Chicken’s fame had spread beyond Nashville, with New York City restaurant opening dedicated to the chicken and restaurants serving the dish drawing hours-long lines in its namesake city. Meanwhile, honey mustard barbecue flavoring is both more widespread — you can buy Carolina Gold BBQ sauce at Trader Joe’s — but less iconic, with no Georgia Gold-centric restaurant reaching the levels of fame as Nashville Hot purveyors Hattie B.’s or Prince’s.
That could dial down the pressure on KFC to produce a 100%-regionally accurate version of the chicken. Plus, Hot Chicken sceptics ultimately didn’t negatively impact KFC’s sales, as Nashville reportedly became one of the top markets for the dish. Hopefully, Georgia Gold can do the same, based on taste alone.
Of course, an item tasting delicious in KFC’s test kitchen doesn’t necessarily mean every customer will love it. One of KFC’s current biggest problems is ensuring that its chicken maintains the same level of quality and identical preparation across locations.
A major part of the chicken chain’s new “Re-Colonelization” process — a public recommitment to quality involving national employee retraining and a new satisfaction guarantee — is focused on boosting customer service. The chain spent more than 100,000 hours retraining more than 20,000 employees in the last year.
The launch of Nashville Hot and now Georgia Gold Chicken represents a new era at KFC, in which the chain tries to ditch Double Downs and “Franken-chicken” of years past in favour of a more food-focused franchise.
Nashville Hot Chicken proved that this new vision of KFC could be a success, with KFC calling the chicken one of the most successful menu-item launches in the chain’s history. Georgia Gold will prove if the success of Nashville Hot Chicken was a fluke, or if KFC has the opportunity to build a more creative and culinary menu in the coming years.
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