The Moment KFC Ran Out of Chicken

How marketing saved a supply chain management error

Andrei Tapalaga ✒️
Mar 25 · 3 min read
Image by mikegi from Pixabay

In 2018 a quite curious but interesting phenomenon occurred. Until that point most people probably didn’t believe that a fast-food chain could run out of food. That year UK branches of KFC suffered major losses because a new contractor was unable to supply the high level of consumer demand in the UK.

For the first three months of 2018 over 80 KFC branches in the UK were shut down because they did not have chicken. There were even small riots from outraged customers craving KFC chicken.

A Cause With Useful Information

What’s interesting is that the marketing team found some very valuable information about the consumer base within the United Kingdom: Their consumers were absolutely in love with their chicken.

They knew that creating a new supply chain would require some time, especially with the high demand, so the marketing team got creative.

When companies have problems, many try to hide the fact. But admitting to a mistake is a sign that you respect your customer base and, most importantly, the best way of retaining those loyal customers craving for KFC.

In other words, KFC has messed up this time.

image taken from the Twitter page of KFC

The second thing that the marketing team started working on was a new advertising campaign to help the customer base go with something new until the supply chain problem would be solved. It was time to try and move the customer base towards vegan choices that did not require actual chicken, in order for them to remain open for business.

This may not sound so good for a person who craves for KFC but they offered us this:

KFC’s new vegan burger (Image: PA)

It looks the same and according to the reviews, it pretty much tastes the same, but customers were still aware that this wasn't chicken, so they weren’t getting what they wanted. Or to put it more clearly, they weren’t getting the value they wanted from KFC.

With all the hard work and the incredible marketing that has been done to save KFC UK branches, you cannot simply change the customer's perception about something. This is a valuable lesson for all the marketers out there.

As much as you can try to change the customer’s perception of the value a product offers, 21st-century customers are more aware of all of these things. It isn’t the 90s, when you could just shift the value perception of a customer in an instant with a supposedly better line of products.

However, I want to credit the way that the marketing team tried to work with the customer base, not only by offering them what I consider the best alternative in the situation, but also by being truthful which shows their loyalty towards their customers.

The story ended three months later when a new supplier of chicken was found that could handle the high demand. Sadly KFC has lost many customers in this period of time. However, after reopening all branches they have boomed, making their losses back.

I hope that you’ve identified the critical importance of the marketing team when a company is in a situation as difficult as that of KFC’s. The marketing department is the first line of defense when a company is in trouble or has made a mistake

When the supply of something is low, to the point where it cannot be found, give some thoughts to the alternatives. Especially in these times, we have to be more thoughtful.

Better Marketing

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Thanks to Niklas Göke

Andrei Tapalaga ✒️

Written by

Avid Writer with invaluable knowledge in Business Studies, History and Psychology. “You make your own life” #1 top writer in History

Better Marketing

Marketing advice & case studies to help you market ethically, authentically, and efficiently.

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