Thursday, May 7, 2009


KFC management apparently has worse powers of prediction than Jim Cramer.

Let's look at this for a moment. They offered coupons for free meals over a two week period with their new product, grilled chicken. Anyone ought to be able to see where this is going to end up. It gets picked up by Oprah and thousands of bloggers and twitterers, who slam their website so hard that it can't keep up with all the traffic.

The funniest part of the whole thing, I thought, was the website where the coupons were posted. It was What happens if you split that out? You get Unthin KFC. Ooh, not exactly the point they were trying to get across by touting grilled chicken instead of fried. I should mention that also worked, but the link from Oprah's page was to the unthin URL.

I assume they figured that by limiting the coupon to print four times on a computer, that people would only print a small number of coupons. I'm sure not everyone has access to a computer lab with 35 computers in it like I do (you do the math to figure out how many coupons my employees printed), but most people have access to a computer at home, one at work, plus a laptop, and maybe grandma's house. It adds up quickly.

So we go last night and get several free meals for our family and take it to a great U8 soccer game. Overall, it was a good experience. The wait was terrible, though. There was a line snaking through the whole restaurant, and when you got to the front you realized why. Even if the people scooping up the mashed potatoes were fast (which they were not), they had a hard time keeping the chicken stocked. One of my employees was a few people behind us in line. He and his wife got two meals inside and two through the drive-through. They ran out of grilled chicken and offered to let them take Original Recipe chicken instead. Really? Is that a good idea? People show up to try your new grilled chicken and you give them the fried stuff instead? So much for the whole point of the promotion, which was to try the new product.

I did actually get grilled chicken last night, but when we went for lunch today, they were out again, and they gave me Original Recipe. As good as the grilled chicken was, the fried chicken was still better. The biggest problem with the grilled chicken, I think, is that they leave the skin on. Why not cut it off and save that many more calories?

The other problem was one of sides. I don't know if other stores did the same thing, but where we went, they only allowed you to get mashed potatoes and cole slaw, even though the coupon infers that you can get any two sides you want. I suppose it's more efficient and probably cheaper to give everyone the same thing, but really, I heard a lot of people ask for something other than cole slaw only to be turned down. I guarantee a lot of cole slaw and the styrofoam bowls it comes in ended up just being tossed in the garbage. Part of the problem likely comes from the manager of the store not finding out about the coupons until just a couple days before the great giveaway was to start and being able to have enough of everything on hand to handle the increased traffic.

So today, three days into the two week giveaway, KFC announced that they will temporarily stop honoring the coupons, since they have been inundated with people taking them up on their offer. Are you that surprised, KFC? Did you really not see that coming? So now, customers have to take their coupons into the store, get an extra form from the manager, which they mail in to KFC, who will mail back rain checks with staggered dates they can be used, in order to spread out the demand a bit. At least to make up for the extra effort, they are throwing in a drink with the rain check.

So thumbs up for going with the free offer that really is actually free, but thumbs down to whoever didn't predict this would be this huge. Seriously, how can they be surprised?

On a side note, what's with the fake "Buttery Spread" and "Honey Sauce" for the biscuits? We're supposed to unthink what we thought about KFC when you give out sauce that is 89% corn syrup and 11% honey instead of just pure honey?

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