In 2015, KFC Australia opened an 'upmarket' sit-down restaurant in Parramatta, NSW. Boasting an open kitchen and a hipster-friendly menu (red quinoa seeds, anyone?) it was envisioned as the first in a new chain of fancy KFC salad bars. Instead, it shut its doors within a year and hasn't been heard of since.
Okay, so I didn't so much 'discover' this fact as 'remember' it - I actually visited this ill-fated store for its launch where I gave its food a thumbs up.
The menu was obviously inspired by similar "premium" fast food restaurants such as Grill'd, with an emphasis on quality and presentation over speed of service. Unlike regular KFCs, the burgers came in crusty European-style bread rolls procured fresh from Laurent Bakery.
As you'd expect, an array of unique ingredients were offered at this restaurant, including red quinoa seeds, jalapeño sauce, avocado, diced carrot, basmati rice, corn salsa, shredded slaw, grilled chicken and frozen custards for dessert.
It also used special chicken breast fillets that were roughly 30% larger than the fillets sold at KFC's other outlets. (Fun fact: this required KFC to employ an all-new cooking method to ensure the bigger fillets weren't accidentally served raw in the middle.)
While the store did offer a selection of traditional KFC fare, the emphasis was on the new wraps, burgers and salad bowls. As mentioned, all meals were prepared in front of the customer via an open kitchen similar to Subway.
So what went wrong? While I'm sure location and a lack of marketing played a part, the real problem was one of familiarity. Even when dressed up with special salads and condiments, KFC is still KFC. Just take a look at this picture of the Jalepeno Mayo Zinger salad bowl:
To quote a famous, staunchly heterosexual Muppet: one of these things is not like the others.
Also, despite all the salad bar trappings, the food actually wasn't that healthy. Most of the burgers packed in around 3500kJ of energy which kind of defeated the proposed chain's purpose.
With that said, I wouldn't mind seeing KFC take another stab at a premium outlet. But this time, instead of offering faux-healthy salad choices, they need to go in the opposite direction. Call it a Black Label restaurant and give us chicken 'n' chips fried in tallow - just like in the good ol' days! Well, a guy can dream.
You can relive the original taste test and wonder what might have been via the link below.
KFC is the latest fast food giant to launch an experimental "upmarket" restaurant in a bid to evolve and diversify. The swanky Parramatta-based outlet features an all-new menu, an open kitchen and (pending council approval) alcoholic beverages. We headed down to the grand opening to try some of its deluxe finger-lickin' offerings. Are Zinger patties and quinoa seeds a good mix?
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