Thursday, 17 March 2011

Really so good?

From This:

To this!

Over 50 years of history is being quietly erased. The colonel's famous 'Finger Lickin'' slogan deemed as being 'Too food centric' is being replaced with a rather more bland affair 'So Good'.

The last time KFB checked KFC was a restaurant, a place usually centred wholly around food. But no, the famous strapline has kicked the bucket and been sent to the fryer in the sky.

This phrase, organically borne out of utter reality in the 1950s when a viewer had complained after an advertisement featured someone in the background licking his fingers. Its star, a KFC manager called Ken Harbough, responded: "Well, it's finger lickin' good." has been quietly dropped. There has been no bugle call of The Last Post, flags have not been flown at half mast (apart from at KFB HQ) but a part of KFC has died and a little bit of KFB's heart has too (no, it's not a premature coronary).

Its sad demise can be read all about here.

Tuesday, 15 March 2011

New TLO: The Godfather Box Meal

Whilst KFC continues to conquer the rest of the world as Paulbot has explained, here in the UK it continues to innovate. This week saw the launch of the Godfather Box meal. Disappointingly haven't yet updated their site to reflect this and I don't have a poster picture.

The box meal follows the standard pattern, for £4.99 you get chips, drink, a side, a piece of chicken and KFC's newest creation . . . The Godfather Burger. What a name, something to rival the Daddy burger you think and with that strapline 'Deserves Respect' excitement continues to grow. You are given the box, a beautiful gloss black affair with simple wording and weighty contents and then you realise this is just a 'Spicy Italian Tower Burger'

Identical in every way to a standard tower (although, and clarification to follow on this there may be a different cheese used.) the tomato ketchup has merely been replaced by what looks like a thick cream of tomato soup with herbs. Still I always like something spicy and greedily tucked in. The sauce was smooth with a slight smoky taste with hints of Basil and most disappointingly only the merest hint of the spice promised in this burgers description (remember this in an OR fillet). It appeared that I certainly had a generous helping of sauce and so I really was expecting something a little hotter.

After a while the sauce became a little creamy and cloying not providing the perfect balance of palate cleansing fresh tomato found in the ZT's spicy salsa underbelly. The one saving grace of this was where I chose to sample it, so a special mention must go out to Congleton branch where I enjoyed it, which in over 20 visits this year has provided excellent quality fayre each and every time. Congleton tried as hard as they could, plenty of fresh lettuce an ample but overwhelming portion of Mayo, crispy hash brown, hot fresh fillet and a perfect soft bun, all of which couldn't quite salvage what could have been a great burger.

4 out of 10

KFC World Tour, Part 4: China

Yes, my good friends, China. The far east, the orient. A land of tradition, culture and over 4000 years of known history. One of the world's oldest civilisations...and to the typical western man (e.g. myself), a strange, alien place.

Arriving in Beijing, I found myself overwhelmed by very different cultural and lifestyle conventions. People everywhere, huge roads, bicycles, street sellers, flashing signs and strange sights and smells. However, one very important interest that Eastern and Western cultures share is in the fast food market. That's right, KFC is the most popular fast food chain in China. As this report goes on to explain:

In China, KFC has achieved such dominance over McDonald’s and local rivals that Colonel Harland Sanders’s image is a far more common sight in many Chinese cities than that of Mao.

As I found out for myself, this is indeed the case, and it was easy to spot the sheer number of KFC outlets by just wandering around the city. It was time to see what all the fuss was about.

For the real experience, I decided to head inland to the heart of China. The Western style shopping malls of Beijing were not a true test of Chinese KFC and so it was decided that an overnight train to Xi'an would be necessary. Arriving in Xi'an I quickly found the most popular branch near the long distance bus depot - a huge building, open 24/7 and seemingly always packed with locals tucking into delicious chicken.

Inside, I struggled to find a seat and had to share with some locals. The most popular meal of choice seemed to be the Colonel's staple fare, buckets of chicken wings, drumsticks and thighs - meat on the bone was clearly the local preference here. Overcoming the language barrier with some difficulty, I eventually managed to order a set meal, opting for what appeared to be a Zinger Meal with hot wings, coleslaw, and strange pie thing and a fruit juice drink. Strangely, none of the standard meals came with chips and it was only after some time studying the Chinese menu that they were spotted in the extras section.

The Zinger style burger and hot wings were exactly what I have come to expect, spicy and crispy with a secret recipe coating. The chicken, as I fully expected, was not up to the same juicy, plump standards of the UK, but it was good enough and provided ample sustenance. The strangest parts of the meal were the drink and small tartlet. Rather than the standard Pepsi we have come to expect, the drink was an almost tropical flavoured cordial style drink, quite refreshing and I'm sure much healthier than a carbonated alternative. The small tartlet looked to be savory on first inspection but actually turned out to be a sweet egg custard tart, a pastry commonly found in asian countries and in portuguese cuisine. Although the taste of the egg tart wasn't to my liking, it made me wonder why this kind of complete meal isn't offered in Western KFCs. I think a box meal that included some kind of small dessert or sweet pastry as a post-chicken treat could be a great idea.

It was now clear to me that the Colonel's secret recipe tastes the same anywhere in the world, even in exotic and strange locations, and the Colonel's staple fried chicken is loved the world over. The time had come to visit the opposite side of the globe, as far from the UK as I have ever been. Back into Westernised culture, but to see what innovations are being made almost 12000 Km from home. Next stop, New Zealand!

Tuesday, 8 March 2011

KFC AM: a tale of shattered dreams

Breakfast: the most important meal of the day. KFC: the most significant thing to happen to the out and about dining experience since man first developed the sandwich. You’ll have understood our joy then upon first discovering that KFC was running an ops shakedown for a breakfast menu at their flagship Marble Arch outlet. You see, KFC has been slow to innovate of late, resulting in slight variations on existing burgers, different ways to fold a wrap or at worst, the mere addition of an alternate sauce in a long established product. The promise then of a full new menu was so exciting that we naturally had to cover it here at KFB, twice.

KFC AM as it was known was an exciting and boundary-pushing way to start to the day. Eggy bread sandwiches, breakfast wrapstars, grilled(!) tomato ketchup, waffles, porridge and the pièce de résistance, chicken sausages, all featured on the first iteration of the menu. In total around 12 new menu items appeared over the course of the first year. The Colonel had found a way to make breakfasts not only different, not only to contain chicken (and no, eggs don’t count) but most importantly of all: a way to ensure they were as delicious as his long-established lunch and dinner time favourites.

So what of it I hear you ask? Why is my favourite blog referring to KFC AM in the past tense when I saw it advertised on my way to work this very morning? Well, my chicken-loving readers, KFC AM is dead to us. So far removed is the current iteration of the menu that we feel ashamed to associate it with the Colonel. All that innovation, that spark, that unique taste and yes, even that chicken has now been removed. What we are left with is the same bacon rolls, (pork!) sausage sandwiches and scrambled egg that you could find at any sub-par greasy spoon. The wrapstar? A distant memory. The breakfast box meal? Moved on to a happier place. In fact, every uniquely-named product from the original line-up bar the Platter has been removed. And that Platter - it's replaced eggy bread with toast and chicken sausages with Cumberland. Just take a look back at the original line up if you think you can bear the pain and then compare it to the shameful 'range' now available.

We understand that the British public might not have been ready, that they probably voted with their wallets and left us with this. Colonel, we salute you for trying something so unlike the rest, but what we can’t commend you for is not sticking to your guns and pushing harder, adding a little more to your marketing budget, running free trials to help people get over the chicken sausage fear.

You had a chance to be so different, Colonel, so special. But all you’ve left us with is a hole in our hearts once filled with eggy bread, Southern-style buttery breakfast buns and chicken sausages. A hole so large that even a Hot Rod box meal couldn’t fill it. Colonel, you’ve let us down.