The KFC chicken crisis: what we learnt

We’ve had Emily in the office for the last few weeks completing a Marketing internship with us. Emily is completing her History degree at the University of Birmingham and will be graduating this year, so she has a flair for writing and research. She’s put these skills into action and turned her hand to writing a blog for us on what she has learnt from the KFC PR crisis.


As I’m sure many of you have heard, there was a chicken crisis at KFC in February 2018! It’s been interesting to follow the story, to say the least.

If you don’t know what I am referring to and have been living under a rock, then here’s what went down.

Customers went to get their usual fix of KFC and found there was either a limited menu or the store was shut. KFC had shut down its locations in response to a shortage of chicken, meaning that by February 18th only 266 of the 870 restaurants in the UK were open.

How do KFC run out of chicken you say? Basically, it all came down to a operational issues with their new delivery service, DHL. They still apologised and didn’t place the blame anywhere, but on themselves. More on that later.

On social media, there was mixed reactions…

One woman was filmed complaining that she was being forced to go to Burger King, resulting in another viral video. To remedy, KFC offered her a rice box with her ‘name on it’, but Burger King surpassed KFC by offering her a year’s supply of BK.

The KFC closures caused so much panic that chicken fans were calling the police in East London. This seemed to spread to Manchester and the police issued out stern warnings over Twitter that it was not a police matter.

After a whirlwind few days, we also saw the chicken drought leading to people selling their KFC on eBay. One bid was set to a finger lickin’ £65,900.00.

This whole situation posed a formidable task for Colonel Sanders, but social media was key to their strategy. Here’s what I learnt from viewing their approach.

Humour is powerful

Humour can sometimes fall short in PR but in this situation, people could see the funny side.

Some seemed to love their handling of the situation. One tweet joined in with KFC’s use of puns and stated that it was a ‘momental cluck up’, but were impressed with KFC, and looked forward to their return!

This cheeky apology was posted on the 23rd of February and was created by Mother London, the fast-food chain’s UK creative agency.

It was in keeping with the same sense of humour that has characterised KFC’s communications so far. Their strategy of using humour seemed to have been successful, and people saw the funny side. I personally love their use of the famous ‘chicken crossed the road’ joke!

Reflecting on your customer’s feelings is important

The ad grabs readers’ attention with a reimagining of the chain’s logo to a swear word, echoing the feelings of customers and KFC itself. In this way, it reassured customers that it was alright to be frustrated, whilst maintaining that tongue-in cheek tone and acknowledgment that they ‘fck’ed up.

People appreciate a genuine apology

KFC don’t place the blame elsewhere and this is good. They address the situation directly and recognise the hard work their employees have put in, acting as a pacifier for their probably very stressedemployees.

From a PR perspective, it’s been a lesson in successful public management. Their creative response advanced their brand image, we’ve seen some great publicity for KFC, and a lot of praise for how they have handled the situation.

No doubt since reopening, people are rushing to get their hands on their famous fried chicken. Strangely, I even found myself craving some fried chicken.

If your business has suffered a crisis or anything else for that matter, we’re on hand to advise and help you recover your reputation

Email [email protected] to get started.

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