Kentucky Fried Chicken

Fast Food Makeover
Posted August 29, 2005

In a marketplace saturated with health-conscious eating, low-carb meals, salads and fruit cups, where has Colonel Sanders been? Hiding out in South Beach?

Kentucky Fried Chicken, the 53-year-old venerable fast-food chain based in Louisville, Ky., tried to maneuver the latest food crazes first by banning the word "fried" from its name, shortening it to KFC. Then, it began introducing new products and marketing promotions, including Tender Roast chicken sandwiches and Twisters.

While this effort may have trimmed some waist lines, it also trimmed KFC's place in the marketplace and created a disconnect with customers. Same-store sales growth had been steadily dropping since 2002. And customers weren't really buying into a Kentucky Fried Chicken without that iconic bucket of Original Recipe fried chicken.

"All those things that really made this brand and product special had been lost," says Paul Lechleiter, chief creative officer at FRCH Design Worldwide (Cincinnati), the design firm chosen to help reinvent the brand.

So parent company YUM! Brands Inc. decided to reconnect with its Southern roots, reminding customers of its 11 herbs and spices, "secret recipe" and family-style dining that had made it a success.

"The old stores were communicating fast service and price deals, but they didn't communicate quality, variety and this whole idea of great Southern comfort food," says Lechleiter. "And the advertising was very promotional and not about brand-building."

But how do you make over a 65-year-old brand?

As a starting point, designers put the chicken back in KFC by reintroducing the Kentucky Fried Chicken name. Then, with the help of brand firm Tesser (San Francisco), designers gave the Colonel a makeover, taking a few years off his looks while dressing him in a red apron that reconnects the founding father to the kitchen where he started it all.

Now with a hipper Colonel and its name back, the brand was ready to interpret its new brand image at its band of aging restaurants.

Designers created a design mantra of "old school cool" to guide the makeover. "It's this idea of taking the best of the heritage and mixing it with something new and fresh and the idea that this is a cool place to be," says Lechleiter. "We wanted to create a destination for people, not just a place where food is for refueling."

Using building and interior architecture as a graphic, designers created a new visual language comprised of a red and white color palette, the renewed name, star images and artistic-style graphics. "Everything has the Kentucky Fried Chicken signature on it and that's important in building the brand," says Lechleiter.

Designers also took cues from retail, raising the ceiling heights and enlarging the windows, to create drama and make the space inviting. Customers are encouraged to linger with a variety of seating choices, including a banquet table and counter and booth seating. Along with its new digs, the company expanded its menu, adding quick pick-up items such as chips, fresh juices, salads and fruit.

The result, says Lechleiter, is an environment that speaks to the brand's founding attributes of comfort, ease and conversation. "It's about marrying product and experience together to equal a great brand," says Lechleiter.

Finally, the Colonel's got his groove back.

Client: YUM! Brands Inc., Louisville, Ky.
Terry Davenport, senior vp, concept design and multibranding
Anne Fuller, global concept design leader
Sean Hagan, concept design architect
Scott Keadle, program manager
Roger Lyon, plan manager K, KT & KL

Design and Architect: FRCH Design Worldwide, Cincinnati
Paul Lechleiter, chief creative officer
Steve McGowan, vp, creative director
Shane Kavanagh, vp, specialty retail architecture
Niki Adrian, vp, graphic design
Tobias Harris W., graphic design director
Jeff Waggoner, environmental graphic design director
Lori Kolthoff, resource design director
Jeff Siegel, operations manager
Denise Sharma, project manager
Frank Mulich, team leader
Doug Bunker, graphic designer
Greg Smith, graphic designer
Jaime Linning, graphic designer
Adrianne Korczynski, graphic designer
Kelli Lear, graphic designer
Katie Pack, interior designer
Abby Jahnigen, interior designer
Robyn Novak, interior designer
Marty McCauley, designer

Outside Design Consultants: Tesser, San Francisco (branding)
Lighting Management Inc., Harriman, N.Y. (lighting)

General Contractor and Architect: Design Plus Inc., Louisville, Ky.

MEP Engineer: KLH Engineers, Ft. Thomas, Ky.

Structural Engineer: Graham Obermeyer & Associates, Cincinnati

Furniture and Millwork: Plymold, Kenyon, Minn.

Graphics/Signage: Everbrite, Greenfield, Wis.
Nordquist Sign, Minneapolis
Harlan Graphic Arts Services Inc., Cincinnati
Multi Media Technology, Minneapolis

Custom Laminate/Countertops: Wilsonart Intl., Fairfield, Ohio

Back Painted Glass: Specialty Architectural Products, Toledo, Ohio

Photography: Mark Steele, Mark Steele Photography, Columbus, Ohio