Colonel Sanders goes Mexican

November 27, 2013 11:16 PM

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KFC Select offering burritos and cilantro rice bowls in Toronto a 'world first' for the chicken chain.

The world famous bucket of deep fried chicken and the bright green coleslaw are nowhere on the menu, and the gravy has been replaced with guacamole at the new KFC ‘Select’ outlet set to open in Toronto in mid-December.

With the cut-throat fast food industry losing market share to ‘fast casual’ chains like Chipotle Mexican Grill, KFC is looking to get a leg up on the competition by introducing burritos, rice bowls and salads alongside its new crispy chicken strips and sandwiches.

“We have a lot of history here in Canada for the last 50 years,” said Nicolas Burquier, KFC Canada’s new general manager.

“The brand is really on a journey and this is a reflection of that,” he said.

In what he calls a world first for the company, the new outlet features a bright reddish-orange menu board and an open concept kitchen for customers to watch their grilled chicken burritos being wrapped and waffle fries – another new addition -- cooking.

The aim is to attract a younger urban demographic to the chicken chain’s mostly suburban market, said Burquier, who noted his task since taking over has been to “re-invigorate the brand.”

The familiar image of the bespectacled Colonel in his black string bow tie and white suit will loom large in artsy black and white photos on the outlet’s exposed brick wall -- a nod to tradition amid the seemingly dramatic shift to Mexican fare.

“I associate the Colonel with chicken, not Mexican,” said industry analyst Andy Brennan of IBISWorld Inc.

“They’re still known as Kentucky Fried, so it’s confusing. It dilutes the brand a bit,” he said.

But Burquier was quick to label the move a twist on an old favourite – namely the chicken – rather than a complete departure from the historic brand, which he noted will continue on across Canada likely with some tweaks down the road to keep up with the times.

Canada’s largest fast food chicken chain with 674 restaurants, KFC has been updating its design at the 20 new stand-alone stores opening this year across the country along with a brighter food court style at the Eaton Centre and Yorkdale Shopping Centre.

Now a construction site, the new KFC Select is being built at the former Yonge-Charles St. location of KFC and Taco Bell, both of which are owned by fast food behemoth Yum Brands Inc. along with Pizza Hut.

Burquier, who just grew KFC in France from 26 to 150 stores, said the new concept does not overlap with Taco Bell, which is going in a different direction with the crunchy new Doritos Locos Taco versus Select’s soft flour tortilla.

He pointed out that they want to keep fast food prices in a casual dining atmosphere. Burritos, salads and rice bowls are $5.99. The only ‘3 piece’ available is the premium chicken breast strips – no chicken bones at this location – for $4.99.

The chicken burgers topped with cilantro mayo and pickles range from $2.99 to $5.49. Customers can get pico de gallo, mango salsa, salsa roja and sour cream on the side for $1.25.

The new coleslaw is coarsely chopped cabbage mixed with carrots tossed in house dressing. And new dessert items include the Kream Ball sundaes mixed with cake and cookie pieces and strawberry cheesecake.


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