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We have all heard the joke “why did the chicken cross the road?”. Well a few days ago in the UK, the chicken didn’t even make it to the road and KFC ran out of chicken—no joke! KFC’s new courier service, DHL, didn’t deliver on the chicken. This resulted in the Colonel having to close hundreds of stores in the UK, leaving its patrons clucking like hens with discontent. Personally, I don’t eat bird and when I did it was not fried with a secret recipe of 11 herbs and spices however loyal customers love their KFC. It was bad enough when the QSR (quick service restaurant) chain ran out of gravy but then chicken! It put customers over the edge, forcing them to take to twitter and post their gravy grievances and cry “fowl”! Some customers even flew the coop (sorry I couldn’t resist) and ate at McD’s (buying power is high switching costs are low—Porter's 5 Forces 😉for those looking for a little business jargon).

So, how does a brand who popularized fried chicken’s entry into the fast-food-QSR industry recover from such a SNAFU (Situational Normal All Fucked UP)? Well, KFC did not chicken out of its responsibilities and shy away from the problem. It quickly owned up to the poultry shortage with a little humour which I thought was brilliant and thus why I am sharing the story (figure 1).

The chicken crisis coincided with my class yesterday in retail marketing where we discussed what companies and brands can do when problems like this arise because when things go wrong (it’s inevitable), how a company responds and recovers can make or break customer loyalty. Thus:

  1. Don’t commit a second mistake by not acknowledging and correcting the first mistake—it's a double whammy. Trying to sweep the problem under the rug will just make it worse. Customers are smart and will see right through the facade.

  2. Loyal customers are more likely to complain. If you were expecting to eat KFC and the bucket is empty, a loyal customer will get Hangry—bad-tempered or irritable as a result of hunger (the Oxford dictionary added the word this year to its roster of definitions, thus legitimizing the condition).

  3. Food for thought:

  • On average, happy customers tell 9 people about their experience (a good service recovery can be a positive broadcast) and unhappy customers tell 16 people (social media rants not included).

  • It costs 5-7 times more to gain a new customer than to keep a current one happy

KFC understood it needed to act fast to retain its loyal customers and took responsibility for the situation. People make mistakes, companies and their brands are human and sh#*t happens but if you're honest and address it head on your customers will be more forgiving.

Figure 1 (photo credit:


Hart, Christopher W.L., James L. Heskettand W. Earl Sasser, Jr (1990), “The Profitable Art of Service Recovery,” Harvard Business Review, Jul-Aug 148-156. American Express 2016

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