I’ve always been impressed at the vertical/horizontal menu expansions at Yum Brands restaurants (Taco Bell, Pizza Hut, KFC). Yum (formerly Trincon) was born in 1997 as a spin-off from Pepsi, who previously operated these businesses as the Pepsi fast food division.
They’ve flirted with expansion, acquiring and spinning Long John Silvers / A&W, and with start-ups (Super Chix, designed to compete with Chik-Fil-A) (since spun to founder).
But in the end, they are focusing on their core brands and international expansion. (KFC is in 125 countries, Pizza Hut in 100).
My reference in the opening sentence was particularly unique originally to Taco Bell. They take the same basic 6-8 ingredients, present it in different “shapes,” invent a “Mexican-ized” name for it, and push it thru the sales chain. I used to joke that I thought you should be able to order by shape at Taco Bell. “I’ll have the tube,” or “octagon,” or whatever.
Pizza Hut started to catch on with different types of crusts (thickness, flavored-sprayed, stuffed).
But KFC, for the most part, has either not gotten the corporate memo on the concept, or ignored it. Their in-house innovation has largely been limited to “Original,” and “Extra Crispy” but adding tenders, nuggets and sandwiches, but that’s about it.
But now KFC may have discovered the key to the concept by adding ‘flavored’ chicken, like their current offerings of “Georgia Gold” (a honey-mustard flavored bird) or “Nashville Hot” (a hot sauce/peppery exterior).
I have no direct, inside knowledge, but it appears to me, having ordered both, that the flavorings are added post cooking, sprayed or tossed. I came to this conclusion by observing the pools of flavoring sauce in the bottoms of my serving containers. (I suspect also that’s not standard protocol – see pic below).
The “Georgia Gold” is meant to be KFC’s interpretation of the primary BBQ flavor of the SE United States, which heavily employs a mustard based sauce for BBQing, in lieu of the “red sauce” found in many parts of the US. The “honey” part is KFC’s addition.
The “Nashville Hot” is the company’s interpretation of a dish created in the Tennessee city, and anecdotally dates back to the 1930s, but generally its current popularity is attributed to a local business, Prince’s Hot Chicken Shack, which put the dish on the menu as early as the 1940’s. The Nashville version involves marinating the chicken first, then once cooked (fried or roasted), the pieces are bathed in a paste heavily laden with cayenne.
Pieces of the bird are served on white bread with dill pickle slices on the side. KFC passed on this part, giving you a choice of their usual sides and tossing in a biscuit. Three tenders, a side, a biscuit, a little north of five bucks.
I enjoyed them both, in the tenders version. The Georgia Gold was a tad to sweet for my taste, and therefore the mustard part isn’t all that evident. I would have preferred the reverse.
The Nashville is “hot” probably one of the hottest fast food offerings, and I’m generally a wimp about heat, but this didn’t bother me. Since both dishes rely on human interaction at the finishing stage, I can see where one limitation might be that some pieces would get either too little or too much of the flavoring (thus the pool of hot sauce in my tray).
But the brilliance of this is allowing KFC to run with the multiple offerings like Taco Bell employs, variations on same ingredients. I can see where KFC might try LTOs with varying flavors (BBQ, ranch, dill, whatever), or at least doing it with an eye (taste bud) towards regional tastes (A “California” style, for example). Siracha and Chipotle can’t be far behind.
I don’t know how long Georgia and Nashville are going to be around, but since they share a label on the packaging, they are likely to both vanish at the same time.
I’d buy them both again, but favor the Nashville. Flavorings are available on full sized chicken pieces, tenders or littles (sandwiches).
As evidence of the company’s international dependency for growth, there are over 5,000 KFC outlets in China, and about 2,000 Pizza Huts. I personally witnessed the openings of both chains there, and the immediate success they had with Chinese consumers.
KFC Georgia and Nashville Chicken Review