Where did all that chicken go, KFC?


KFC frequenters and lovers of their famed crispy fried chicken in the UK have had it rough over the last week as 80% of all the KFC stores in the country have been forced to shut down. The reason was as simple as it could get - KFC did not have enough chicken in the store to fry. GMB union, the UK’s labor union, estimates that 750 of the 900 stores in the country have been closed due to what turns out to be a supply chain crisis.  

KFC stands to lose millions of dollars in sales and a possible dent in its brand value, after its decision to work with DHL instead of Bidvest Logistics, which was handling its supply chain until recently.

GMB union had voiced its concerns about the impending mishap when KFC had announced it was dropping Bidvest Logistics, a food delivery specialist that delivered to KFC from six warehouses distributed across the country, versus DHL which plans to provide meat from a single distribution center in Rugby. The supply chain costs in the latter are supposed to be significantly less.

The storage depot in Rugby is the ground zero for KFC’s woes, having not been inspected or registered as a cold storage warehouse, as reported by the local council on Wednesday. A spokeswoman for the Rugby borough council, responsible for the area’s food and environmental health standards, said that council inspectors who visited the depot were not aware of it operating as cold storage. “There is no requirement for the DHL cold-storage facility to be licensed, but it does need to be registered. We have now received the relevant documentation and expect to be able to approve the registration in the next few days,” she added.  

Meanwhile, people have spotted desperate KFC workers buying chicken from local meat vendors and carrying them through the store backdoors. Also, with the meat sitting in storage, the question of its freshness arises. This has led to health safety concerns as poultry is an easy target for epidemics. To alleviate fears, KFC has confirmed that a part of the meat that does not meet its standards would be destroyed.  

Logistics and supply chain processes are fragile, and meddling with them can turn disastrous - especially, in the case of perishable and consumable goods that require precision and efficiency in every step of the operation.

This logistics fail is not without precedence. Burger King had witnessed a similar episode six years back, when it had tried shifting from Bidvest Logistics to DHL, leading to a supply chain disaster. Though the extent of the problem with Burger King was not as severe as it is with KFC now, they still backtracked and offered to resume operations with Bidvest - all within six months.

KFC, in its official statement, said that its team is working around the clock to clear the backlog caused by the breakdown in the DHL distribution system. “We still expect the disruption to some restaurants to continue over the remainder of the week which means some will not be open and others will operate with a reduced menu or shortened hours,” it further read.

At the end of the day, it has been the fried chicken lovers who have been crushed by the state of affairs. The KFC fans have rained down calls to their local police stations, reporting about the chicken crisis and demanding an explanation - so much so that the police have taken to Twitter to urge people not to contact them for the store closures.

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Vishnu Rajamanickam, staff writer

Vishnu is an engineer by education, with a couple of years experience in the construction industry. But he has long since moved on to work in different domains as an entrepreneur, copywriter and most importantly, as a journalist. He has also consulted for various travel, technology, and fashion brands as a content strategist and has considerable experience with covering tech startups, having interviewed dozens of CxOs over the course of his career as a technology journalist.