Pleasure Food: Original Recipe Boneless Chicken Where to Get It: KFC, locations Valleywide Price: $5 for a two-piece meal What It Really Costs: Sodium bloat and shame.
Advertising executives have a harder time than ever catching the public's eye. Come up with something with just the right edge, and it takes off like wildfire; Kmart's "Ship My Pants" YouTube ad is a perfect example. A less-than-perfect example is KFC's attempt to sell its new Original Recipe Boneless Chicken.
The KFC ads feature people eating chicken, being surprised that there are no bones left, and then repeatedly exclaiming, "I ate the bones!" I've seen varying reactions to these ads; none are good. There are quite a few people who have dealt with the horror of a pet (or child!) that actually ate chicken bones. "Not fun" is putting it mildly. Personally, I wonder how one could be surprised at the lack of bones when ordering boneless chicken. How stupid are these people? And then there are other people who are prone to innuendo. It doesn't take much imagination. Bones. Giggity.
This ad campaign is yet another stumbling block for a company that's seen its U.S. market share dwindle for years. The fast-food industry is hellacious. To stay competitive, you have to either have a steady supply of new and exciting items (Jack in the Box, Taco Bell) or keep a laser focus on one thing and do it better than anyone else (In-N-Out Burger, Chick-fil-A).
KFC instead prefers to come out with a marginally interesting item every couple of years, while paying little attention to what put them on the map. They had marginal success back in 2009 with Kentucky Grilled Chicken; other offerings are dubious at best, like the Famous Bowl (which somehow is still on the menu) and the what-the-fuck-were-you-thinking Double Down.
KFC is trying again, this time by offering good ol' Original Recipe chicken, but in boneless form. I haven't set foot in KFC in years (largely thanks to being scared as hell by the Famous Bowl and Double Down), so I figured now was as good a time as any to give it another go.
I wish my first impression had been better. If there are no bones, it doesn't register in my brain as fried chicken. The boneless model is more like a huge chicken strip than down-home fried chicken. When I took a bite, I understood exactly why KFC has seen much better days.
This boneless chicken is also skinless. The problem is that much of chicken's flavor comes from the fatty richness of the skin. Take that away, and you're left with bland protein. KFC combats this by pumping the chicken full of salt and MSG; a whopping 1,460 milligrams of sodium from just two pieces of chicken. There's so much flavor enhancement that the chicken tastes only of sodium and desperation. To rub salt in the wound, boneless chicken also dries out faster; the white meat piece I sampled had almost been in the warming box too long.
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For a side dish, I figured the mashed potatoes and gravy were a more or less timeless choice. KFC, what the hell happened to these? These spuds were possibly the worst I've ever had. It was a pasty mouthful of nothing. One look at the ingredient list told the tale: The first two ingredients are potatoes and salt; butter is fourth on the list. At that point, why bother with butter at all? I mean, it's nice of them to help me watch my fat intake (especially considering my mashed potato recipe uses enough butter to make Paula Deen's jaw drop), but if I was eating healthy, I wouldn't have fried chicken for dinner, would I?
By trying to cut corners everywhere in the name of profit margin, KFC has thrown out the baby with the bath water. It makes more money per order this way, but it'd make more money from me by selling a product that makes me want to come back, like Popeye's or Raising Cane's does. If KFC wants to stick around, it needs to kick the accountants out of the kitchen ASAP.
At this point, the whole brand needs a drastic revamp. Most of the stores just look sad, with sparse décor and faded everything. The food should make Colonel Sanders proud. Start by ditching the novelties, and concentrate on making bone-in Original Recipe that's hot, fresh, and delicious without having to resort to artificial enhancement and warming boxes. Get the real original recipe out of your secret vault and use it! And while you're at it, put some butter in the damn mashed potatoes.