KFC 2023

Jan 13, 2023 | Insights, Restaurant Research

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Executive Summary:

KFC is a leader in traditional hand-breaded, bone-in Southern fried chicken (36% share of $1B+ chicken segment by domestic sales) with considerable brand equity around its Original Recipe seasoning and Extra Crispy option. Its buckets (distinguished by red & white stripes & the Colonel’s portrait) of chicken provide an indulgent/nostalgic home meal replacement option bolstered by the Colonel’s high standards, with taste representing a key brand differentiator (“Finger Lickin’ Good”). Value is primarily presented as affordable home real meal replacement bundle options although this equation is challenged by volatile chicken PPI swings. While KFC is a favored brand of baby boomers, the chain seeks to attract younger customers. To this end, KFC has strengthened its digital order platform and appointed a CMO with a background in video games and Yahoo (Internet marketing). In turn, the CMO engaged a new ad agency to expand its reach and engagement with younger customers. One of the marketing mandates is to emphasize authenticity (a key attribute for millennials & Gen Zers), a point reinforced by a recent marketing partnership with rapper Jack Harlow. The brand’s recent “Finger Lickin’ Good” TV ad campaign is also directed at a younger audience, emphasizing that “good” food isn’t enough, it should be “Finger Lickin’ Good”. Its increased menu relevancy reflects progress in expanding into sandwiches, tenders, nuggets & bowls while increasing flavor options. Despite the complexities of getting multi-product variety buckets through the drive-thru, KFC maintains fast DT times. Also, the system’s digital sales increased +70% y/y in 2021 (driven by delivery & its new e-commerce/app platform) and the system’s digital mix is running ~10%. Having said all this, it is worth pondering how much a younger demo appreciates fried chicken. Does KFC need to pivot its menu towards chicken products more geared to the preferences of this target market? In any case, current sales headwinds include stiff competition and massive chicken price inflation which inhibits the brand’s ability to offer lower price points for its core lower income demo. Finally, significant senior management turnover is notable. In conclusion, while KFC’s efforts to improve its relevancy are bearing fruit, the chain must currently deal with material inflationary pressures around chicken prices that are stressing core customers.

KFC Market Share
KFC Market Share

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