KFC's command of American Chicken is under assault on a number of fronts. But the chain that made fast food out of chicken isn't about to give up its territory without a big fight.
This week KFC US introduced Original Recipe Bites, the chain's answer to McDonald's success with its limited-time Chicken McBites earlier this year and the Spicy Chicken McBites that the No. 1 fast-feeder is currently promoting. KFC, of course, also faces more competition from the likes of Chick-fil-A, which consumers find easy to love wherever the brand pops up.
"Only KFC could introduce big, bite-sized chicken with the famous flavor of Original Recipe," said Jason Marker, KFC's U.S CMO, venturing into tautological territory in the company's press release, predicting that the "bite-sized 100 percent breast meat chicken [will] be a hit with adults as well as kids."
The rollout is supported by a fully integrated marketing plan that includes a new national TV commercial airing this week. It features a Gen Yer who still lives in his parents' basement and is about to be kicked out by them — until his father experiences his son's Original Recipe Bites and decides he isn't so shiftless after all.
Original Recipe Bites represent a bit of a comeback by KFC on bite-size chicken. Last fall it introduced Popcorn Chicken, smaller pieces of bird, but that launch seemed to get overshadowed by competing activity such as that by McDonald's, reformulated Chicken Tenders by Burger King, and even new Chicken Nuggets by Jack in the Box. KFC is offering Original Recipe Bites in a combo of six pieces plus a side dish and beverage for $3.99.
Meanwhile, KFC is experimenting with new approaches elsewere as well. In New Zealand, for example, the chain is testing a self-service kiosk with a touch-screen terminal. In another trial of a concept that KFC already has used in France with some success, customers at the KFC restaurant in Auckland pick their meals up from a dedicated counter after they have placed their orders themselves.
None of that is likely to intimidate McDonald's, whose new CEO, Don Thompson, told analysts recently that the chain will be relying more than ever on chicken items at a time when financially strapped consumers will find McDonald's chicken menu even more affordable than its burgers.
Let the feathers fly.