KFC Collects Kudos for Its Response to Supply-Chain Crisis

Thom Weidlich 03.01.18


Last week, many people were distracted and amused by a crisis at KFC, formerly Kentucky Fried Chicken, in the United Kingdom and Ireland. The company handled the matter with such humor and grace that it may actually, in the end, benefit from the flub. We know from past incidents that the brand is deft at crisis communications.

On Feb. 14 (Valentine’s Day, as it happens), KFC dumped Bidvest Logistics as its transportation company for its 900 restaurants in the U.K. and Ireland. The switchover to Deutsche Post-owned DHL wasn’t exactly smooth. In fact, DHL had such trouble delivering chicken to KFC that within a week about two-thirds of the restaurants had closed down.

On Feb. 17, KFC, owned by Zum Brands Inc., took to social media to lightheartedly apologize for the situation. The headline: “The Chicken Crossed the Road, Just Not to Our Restaurants …” The statement referred to its new vendor’s “teething problems.” “We know that this might have inconvenienced some of you over the last few days, and disappointed you when you wanted your fried chicken fix — we’re really sorry about that,” it said.

That — especially the headline — got a fair amount of positive press.

That wasn’t all KFC did. It set up a web page (with “crossed-the-road” as part of the URL) listing the restaurants that were open or re-opened. It tweeted out an update that included information about the page and that noted the company’s staff was working “round the cluck” on the problem.

‘Happy Fry-day’

It tweeted occasional updates (not more than a few a day) and posted a helpful Q&A; one of the public’s concerns was what was happening to the chicken that wasn’t being delivered. On Friday, Feb. 23 (“Happy Fry-day”), KFC put out another update (headline: “We’re Knackered and Can’t Think of a Funny Headline …”) announcing that 90 percent of the restaurants were open, though some on limited menus.

Also on that Friday came the effort that brought an avalanche of accolades. KFC ran national newspaper ads featuring a picture of one of its famous buckets — empty — plastered with an anagram of its name: FCK. “A chicken restaurant without any chicken,” it wrote. “It’s not ideal. Huge apologies to our customers, especially those who travelled out of their way to find we were closed.”


A chicken restaurant without any chicken. It’s not ideal.


Men’s website Joe called it a “genius apology.” One Twitter user called it “Hands down, the best ad of the year so far.” Another noted: “If KFC’s operations team where [sic] half as good as their marketing team, the chicken crisis would never have happened.” Another tweet deemed it “a masterclass in PR crisis management.”

So, all in the all the company has received kudos for its handling of the crisis. The messages about the chicken shortage were funny, casual, and apologetic, and always mentioned the great job the employees were doing. KFC refrained from pointing (chicken?) fingers at DHL, which has been remarkably quiet about the situation.

Gravy Shortage

Alas the problems continue: Yesterday it came out that it now has a gravy shortage!

That KFC is handling the flub well doesn’t surprise us. We’ve had several opportunities to write about its crisis communications. The company happens to be very skilled at it.

And while this crisis — not being able to serve up fast-food chicken (or gravy) — may not be the worst in human history, some people did call the police about it and the company lost revenue in its fifth-biggest market. Workers also lost wages — the GMB trade union accused KFC of changing to DHL to cut union jobs.

And of course customers lost patience and took their business elsewhere. “We’re aware other purveyors of chicken have been attempting to lure you in this week,” KFC wrote in its Feb. 23 statement. “Thanks for staying strong.”

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