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KFC 'simplifies' menu, removes wings, popcorn chicken to cut serving time

KFC U.S. (YUM) is shaking up its menu. Say goodbye to Kentucky Fried Chicken wings, popcorn chicken, Nashville Hot sauce, strawberry lemonade, and chocolate chip cookies. But to be clear, KFC's original Colonel Sanders recipe with 11 herbs and spices stays.

The YUM! Brands subsidiary has been undergoing "a menu simplification" to increase efficiency, ease the ordering experience, and allow the company to better focus on innovation.

"It's really to deliver our most popular products perfectly each time and to actually make room for new products." KFC U.S. Director Brittany Wilson told Yahoo Finance.

The changes are expected to roll out over the next month on a case-by-case basis to "make room for this big spring of innovation that KFC has coming,"

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The removed items were chosen because they "weren't available on a national scale or that [they] haven't necessarily been growing on a national sales mix," Wilson said.

KFC U.S. new national menu (Courtesy: KFC)
KFC U.S. new national menu (Courtesy: KFC)

Justin Stewart, a KFC franchise owner and COO of Stewart Restaurant Group, said the menu updates at his restaurant have already cut time for employees to pack orders and improve drive-thru rates.

“Our team members have been able to package orders more quickly, due to having less items on our pack line. As a result, we’ve reduced our drive-through order time by 11 seconds."

According to Intouch Insight's 2022 Annual Drive-Thru Study, KFC's average wait time was 63.6 seconds, while total service time was roughly 4 minutes, or 239.02 seconds. On average, there were nearly 2 cars in line.

Accuracy also improved, per Stewart. "By removing less popular menu items, we’ve improved order accuracy and product availability overall, and created space in back of house. We’ve also reduced our controllable costs because of less waste, less prep and less cleanup time."

He said customers haven't minded the removal of items, calling the response "positive" and that they are able "to navigate the new menu board more quickly and easily."

Almost all, 99%, of KFC restaurants are franchise-owned.

Caters to a more value conscious consumer

Starting Feb. 6, new Kentucky Fried Chicken Wraps will be available online at KFC.com, on the KFC mobile app and at KFC restaurants nationwide. (Courtesy: KFC).
Starting Feb. 6, new Kentucky Fried Chicken Wraps will be available online at KFC.com, on the KFC mobile app and at KFC restaurants nationwide. (Courtesy: KFC). (KFC)

Earlier this week, the Louisville, Kentucky brand introduced KFC Wraps for a limited-time only, following an outcry from fans, Wilson said.

"We really received an outcry of requests on social media for us to bring back wraps," Wilson said the 2-for-$5 offering is being added at a time when "consumers are much more value conscious."

In an investor call post-fourth-quarter earnings results this week, CEO David Gibbs said, "We're winning because of value."

He added, "The consumer in the U.S., on the high end, we're actually seeing more frequency from that consumer, and we're seeing possibly driven by a little trade down into our brands, which is all good, and then on the lower end, as I mentioned last quarter, consumers are starting ... there's a little bit more interest in value, which our brands are perfectly positioned to deliver on."

This past quarter, same-store sales for KFC came in at 5%, only slightly higher than Wall Street estimates of 4.84%. On-the-go trends that were popular before the COVID-19 pandemic are back too.

"As we see macros in the consumer landscape shift back to a little bit more pre-COVID times, portability is key and having products that consumers can take with them on-the-go, will certainly be an extension of of how we're looking at it sandwiches going forward."

Wilson added that younger consumers favor boneless products. Last July, Chris Scott, head chef at KFC U.S. had a similar message around the launch of chicken nuggets.

"So many of younger consumers are not interested in eating chicken on the bone, for whatever reason they choose," Scott said. This offering is currently being tested at select restaurant locations in Charlotte, North Carolina, in 8-piece, 12-piece or 36-piece, which varies by location.

Brooke DiPalma is a reporter for Yahoo Finance. Follow her on Twitter at @BrookeDiPalma or email her at bdipalma@yahoofinance.com.

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