Wednesday, 18 February 2009

Ray Allen. . . . Saint, or Sinner

We here in the United Kingdom have much to thank Ray Allen for, we also have a lot of reasons to hate him. Ray was the visionary responsible for bringing KFC here to the UK in 1965, a whole nine years prior to the arrival of Ronald McDonald and his burger pedaling cronies.

Following meetings with Harland in 1963 Ray was able to open the UK's first KFC ,in Preston ,in May 1965. Back then Preston was a small town in North West England. It seems a strange choice, but here Allen was on home turf and due to his catering background throughout the 1950s he thought that the good people of Preston were ready for this taste sensation. He was not wrong. Still trading today at 92 Fishergate, Preston, Lancashire, the store is testament to Allen's early successes.

The Colonel is in fact rumoured to have visited Preston to oversee the overseas expansion of his empire in its nascent stages. Rumour though is all it seems to be for there is no substantiating evidence to be found, not even in Preston. Nor does the colonel mention ever having visited in his autobiography giving the country only a fleeting mention.

Ray Allen undoubtedly did some good work in the early days, expanding the UK KFC operation to some 250 outlets. In fact he himself climbed so far up the greasy pole that he too was made a Kentucky Colonel Just like Harland by the then Kentucky Governor Edward Breathill.

Nobody knows exactly when it happened, or how it happened but it has since become apparent that Ray Allen turned his back on the Colonel's guidence and benevolence before finally sticking the knife in. The Colonel, wiser than us, may have seen this treachery afoot as early as 1974. In his autobigraphy published in that year he gives scant mention to England and does not mention Ray Allen's name. Surely a man whose franchise business had just begun to operate on a whole new continent would have something more to say about this? But no, compared to the Colonel's good friend and first American franchisee Pete Harman, who's mentioned regularly throughout the book, Allen is a ghost.

What other evidence is there to suggest that Allen dropped the ball, deliberately or otherwise? Most damning of all is the squandering of a 9 year head start that Allen had over the rival McDonalds chain which went onto dominate the UK fast food scene. Surely Allen would have only let this happen if he had designs on his own fried chicken empire?


With the dawning of the 90s, some 25 years after bringing KFC to the people of the UK Allen decided that,
"The UK market would appreciate a home grown original fried chicken"
which having developed
"Their very own secret recipe fried chicken"
they brought to the market in the form of Allens Fried Chicken.

KFC's response it seems has been expunge Allen from the record. The official UK website simply states the facts before moving swiftly on witn no mention of Ray Allen's involvement. Not the actions of a company proud of their affiliations. If the Colonel had had his way Allen's treachery would be all but forgotten were it not for the actions of Allen's themselves, in what appears to be a to be a ploy by the fledgling franchise to trade off the Colonel's good name. Below is a picture of the box lid that adorns all Allen's packaging. Read it for yourself, look at the pictures, and ask yourself why they feel they need such as strong disclaimer at the bottom there.

Allen's it seems, after about 15 years of trading has failed to leave the north west and who can blame them when the chain gets reviews like these below from real diners posting their thoughts on the website

Don't bother

Alans fried chicken is a mistake which I think everyone makes once, and will never make again. I hope by reading this you save yourself from a waste of time and money. The food is standard, and what you expect when you go into this style of eatery but the staff are rude and rubbish and tried to short change me and then blame it on myself – not a good start. The food is greasy but sometimes that’s what you need but for the treatment I got I would not go again. A friend also went and some other customers thought he was going to have the last piece of chicken so they threatened to pull a knife on him. I do not blame the Alans chicken staff for this but I blame them for not doing anything and for not asking them to leave when my friend was in obvious distress.

Followed by the more comedic and scathing review:

Quantum Physics and fried chicken

At a fast food restaurant i do not expect to receive gourmet food or gourmet service. What i do expect is quick, simple, properly cooked food for a reasonable price. If i have any issues i expect them to be given due consideration. I got neither from my one and never-to-be-repeated trip to Allen's Fried Chicken on Oxford Road close to St Peter's Square.

After ordering a chicken fillet burger meal i sat down to eat my food. When i found a deep-fried mosquito-type fly in my chips my appetite escaped me. I returned to the counter and asked politely for a refund on my barely touched meal. The response i received was simply astounding; The fly was "my responsibility" and must have flown into the restaurant and landed on my chips (somehow deep frying itself in the process). I was told "once food passes over the counter it was no longer his problem". I was further told if the fly had been on the chips when i had bought them "i should have noticed it and said something straight away". I am alas getting older now, and am no longer able to see through the paper bags that hold the meal and the chips themselves.

My repeated request for a full refund (a quite considerable £4.10) was absolutely not possible-the "manager" assured me the till could not perform this task - i can only imagine what trails you must conquer to attain change from this machine's obviously unwilling bowels..?! After asking the "manager" for his name - as i now wished to make a formal complaint against him - he suddenly went tongue tied, turned out the restaurant's lights, pulled down the shutters and demanded that my friend and I leave as they were now closing (this despite another couple in the corner of the restaurant who were not asked to leave-presumably Allen's have exclusive "lock-in's" with select customers...) i wonder if their opening hours will remain at the new 9.40pm closing time or mysteriously revert back to a later "catch the pub-leavers-going-home" business...?

I have been left with not only a sour taste in my mouth but also the theological question of "just how drunk will i have to be before i forget my experience and happily accept assorted diptera in my food again"...? a quandary indeed. If i ever crack that, bring on quantum physics...

And so we finish this story back where we started it, in Preston where the Lancashire Evening Post reports that the people have chosen their hero, opting to adopt Colonel Harland Sanders to adorn their city over local lad and chicken traitor Ray Allen.

A finger lickin' First for the city

Published Date 30/10/08
By Emma Broom

He's the face that launched a world famous secret-recipe and now Colonel Harland Sander the man synonymous with Kentucky Fried Chicken is in line for his own treat. A lasting tribute to the man behind the fast food brand, possibly in the form of a bronze bust has been included in plans for a heritage art trail in Preston.


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