I recently spent a day behind the scenes at KFC, both at their Head Office in Woking, and a local store near Heathrow.
Prior to my day with KFC I hadn't set foot in one of their stores or tasted their wares in over 8 years. We don't eat takeaways often as a family, my children have a fast food burger meal perhaps 2 or 3 times a year at most.
To be honest I was expecting a day of PR spin and unanswered questions, I could not have been more wrong. Not only were probing questions encouraged they were answered in full and nothing was off limits. Hurrah!
We met with the Head of Research and Development Mark Baxter and Chris Fells the Product Excellence Director. Both used to work for a large supermarket brand before moving to KFC. We also met with members of the PR team.
Let's talk about chooks
All the on the bone chicken sold at KFC in Britain is British and is supplied by 4 companies which supply the major supermarkets. As well as adhering to the very basic Red Tractor welfare standards KFC are committed to a natural enrichment programme. This basically means barns/sheds with more natural light and providing objects for chickens to perch on and peck at. They are altering their tender process to ensure that by 2014 100% of UK suppliers will provide enriched environments for their chickens, at present about 75% of their suppliers do.
You can see a clip of a visit to one of the UK chicken farms which supplies KFC here.
Chicken used in other products comes from farms in the EU, Thailand and Brazil which are regularly inspected by independent inspectors to ensure welfare standards for the chickens are upheld. KFC also ensures that farmers and their workers are paid good and fair prices for their produce.
The bottom line is, if you want to eat only organic and/or free range chicken you probably aren't going to be a KFC customer. Make up your own mind about their chicken, the choice is yours.
A nutritionists nightmare? Not necessarily!
KFC are keen to reduce salt content of their products and provide healthier options for their customers. They do not salt their fries and have reduced salt content in some products by 16% in the last 6 months. There has been extensive research and taste tests carried out in order to continue the salt reduction programme without compromising the traditional KFC taste. Full details of the nutrition breakdown are on tke KFC website here, so parents can mix and match which options are lowest in salt, calories, etc.
We tasted numerous KFC products throughout the day and the large BBQ Grilled Rancher Salad was delicious and under 200 calories so you could even indulge whilst on a 5:2 diet fast day. The children's meal that we sampled was also delicious, however I would recommend the on the bone chicken as this is British and the only processing is breading which takes place in store.
Behind the scenes instore
We were issued with special shoes, coats and caps before heading behind the tills to the food preparation area of a local KFC restaurant. We all took turns preparing some on the bone chicken, breading it and getting it ready for cooking. The on the bone chicken is never frozen and is prepared fresh instore. We were shown the forecast system stores use to show staff which products need to be cooked and how long it has been since the products were prepared. The system uses data from customer transactions over a set time period to predict the volume of products that need to be cooked. The system ensures quality is maintained, wastage is minimised and of course profits are maximised.
It was an interesting insight into the workings of a fast food restaurant. We were also told that all the waste oil used in KFC restaurants is collected and taken away to be turned into biodiesel.
I was surprised and impressed with the honesty and openness of the team and the fact that no questions were off limits. Their transparency and willingness to offer healthier product options and improving the welfare of the chickens used in their products was admirable. I am open to taking my family to KFC for a very occasional treat should the opportunity arise whereas it was not an option I would've considered before. It was an informative and enlightening day, footage of which will be on the KFC website later this month.
Many thanks to the team at KFC for inviting myself and two other bloggers along to their Head Office in Woking and behind the scenes at a local store. The cost of my travel was paid by KFC and we were treated to many KFC products throughout the day. I was not paid to write this post which contains my opinions and impressions from information obtained both on the day and from the KFC website.