It's funny how things always tend to come full circle. You can see it almost anywhere: fashion, sports, music -- take your pick. As soon as today's fad seems to reach its peak, wham. It loses favor almost overnight, and yesterday's is now suddenly back en vogue. I guess it should come as little surprise, then, that just as soon as a wave of health-consciousness has swept across the fast-food industry, quick-service chains everywhere have now changed gears and are embracing their deep-fried roots.
Earlier this week, Yum! Brands
In fact, management unveiled plans to test-drive 50 such restaurants sprinkled across a variety of both urban and suburban markets. In addition to the new -- or is that old? -- name, the outlets will also feature remodeled interiors and a tweaked menu (with a nod to Southern cooking). Transforming a few dozen locations is hardly a complete corporate overhaul, considering KFC has more than 5,500 locations in the U.S. alone. But I would wager a six-piece dinner that the somewhat modest total will rise if consumers respond favorably to the changes.
The move comes just as KFC's slumping same-store sales seem to have finally turned a corner. After being the black sheep in the Yum! family for most of last couple years, KFC has now delivered five straight months of positive domestic same-store sales. On Wednesday, Yum! reported a solid 4% rise in first-quarter comps at KFC, in line with siblings Taco Bell and Pizza Hut, which posted gains of 5% and 4%, respectively.
Let's be honest, changing the company's name to an acronym never really altered the firm's identity as a purveyor of predominately greasy, but tasty, food. And, to be sure, there is an abundance of fast-food patrons who are not going to be chased away by calorie-packed meals. Recently, privately owned Burger King introduced the "Enormous Omelet Sandwich" -- a 730-calorie creation that is more fattening than the company's signature Whopper. Before that, CKE Restaurant's
Wasn't it just a year ago that McDonald's
Don't get me wrong, adding a few healthy alternatives to the menu is a good thing, but some companies have gone overboard. Few customers walk into fast-food restaurants debating whether to get a fruit cup as a side. They want fries, and, if you have it, gravy.
Overdone efforts to bolster sales with healthier fare can backfire. It's refreshing to see that KFC hasn't completely forgotten its past, and about 90% of 100,000 voters on CNN.com agree -- not statistically valid, but telling nonetheless. If nothing else, I think the Colonel would be pleased.
Fool contributor Nathan Slaughter loves salad but isn't afraid of digging into a bucket of chicken either. He owns none of the companies mentioned.