July 16, 2018

KFC response to its chicken shortage is a lesson in crisis management

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In the UK KFC has run out of chicken. For a food outlet specialising in deep-fried poultry this is something of a disaster! It has recently changed suppliers and the new delivery company is having “teething problems”; these are so substantial that it has resulted in a mass closure of outlets. At the time of writing just 271 of the chain’s 870 restaurants were open. Not only is this costly in terms of loss of sales but the reputational damage could have a significant impact too.

Unsurprisingly, social media activity has hit stratospheric proportions with thousands of customers taking to Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat and Facebook etc. to post their disappointment. Currently an entertaining meme of famous TV/film clips is doing the rounds.

However, the way that KFC has responded to the crisis has been exemplary and may yet prove to minimise the brand damage. Firstly, it admitted the mistakes quickly and honestly. The following announcement was widely published by the brand the day of the closures:

Its’ friendly tone of voice combined with its assurances over quality has resonated well with The Colonel’s legion of fans.

The chain has also ensured that it has provided up-to-the-minute information on its website, outlining exactly which branches remain open across the UK and Ireland. It has also added a feature to its app, where customers can locate their nearest open outlet.

Finally, the social media team has also taken a light-hearted approach which has helped to diffuse any anger or disappointment felt by customers.

In a nutshell, the brand has involved its customers. It has admitted its’ mistakes and is continuing to communicate rather than making excuses and refusing to comment – this head-in-the-sand approach is often a tactic employed by other large organisations when they hit crisis point.

It remains to be seen how catastrophic the chicken crisis will be for KFC in the long term, but from a communications perspective it should be applauded.

Louisa Osmond, Teaching Fellow About Louisa Osmond, Teaching Fellow

Teaching Fellow at Edinburgh Business School. Part of the Marketing team, focusing on digital marketing.