KFC's Service Might Be Bad in the Restaurants, But It Knows How to Fill Potholes

I blogged yesterday about my theories as to why KFC seems to have bad customer service, even though the chain gives so much lip-service to customers.

If you can’t provide good restaurant service, how about doing public service instead?

As part of a new marketing campaign, KFC has offered to fill potholes in city streets in return for being allowed to stencil “Re-freshed by KFC” on the patched pavement in a “chalky stencil likely to fade away in the next downpour.” So far the program is only operating in Louisville, but KFC plans on taking the program to four more cities (hat tip to Jessie Sackett).

Although I admire the creativity behind this marketing campaign, it just doesn’t make a lot of sense to me. I don’t see any reason why KFC should be particularly good at filling potholes, and I don’t really see how potholes tie back to chicken. One virtue of the pothole campaign is that, at least in principle, it should be possible to measure (probably imprecisely) whether or not it works.

KFC filling potholes reminds me a little bit of one of the gang leaders Sudhir Venkatesh used to hang out with. This gang leader spent a lot of time and effort cultivating community support. Gang members would pick up garbage in the neighborhood, and the gang leader would buy sneakers for the young kids in the area. Like the executives at KFC, the gang leader wanted community members to view his organization in a positive light. The support of the citizens was a lot more important to the gang, however, than it is to KFC. So my guess is that the return on investment from the gang’s community service was a lot higher than KFC’s.

Alas, the gang leader’s social service push did not have a happy ending. The higher-ups in the gang sent some thugs to beat the gang leader up when they heard he had the gang’s foot soldiers doing neighborhood clean-up. The gang was all about making money, not serving the neighborhood, they told him. From that point on, he was to focus exclusively on selling drugs. His attempts to convince them that public service was contributing to long-term profitability fell on deaf ears.

Like the folks who run big corporations and obsess over hitting the quarterly earnings targets, the top members of the gang were not worried about long-term profits; after all, there was a good chance they weren’t going to be around long enough to reap the rewards.


Kevin

You want a connection? I got one for ya.

In French, a pothole is called a "nid de poule" -- a chicken's nest.

M.B.

Yep, big corporation wanting to improve its image in the community to counteract the resentment of customers over the bad service. Otherwise they would just fill the potholes without needing to take the credit by signing their name and presumably holding big press confrences.

Surely KFC service isn't worse than Arbys?

Richard

My first thought on reading this is that there's a connection between the grease they cook the chicken in and the stuff they use to fill the potholes. I'm guessing that isn't the image the KFC execs had hoped.

Mike

What does GoDaddy have to do with large-breasted women? I have no idea. But I sure remember that site name.

Assuming KFC is competent at filling potholes - and how hard can it be really? - I think it's a great idea.

JohnInSLC

"A chicken in every pothole?"

Bladt

After living in Chicago for many years, I also see no reason to believe that they could be any worse than the city at filling the potholes...

Beth

Often people believe consistency is a hallmark of good choices. In the case of KFC, we have been to various KFC establishment in four states, and I can say with no hesitancy that every single one has consistently given...shall we say, less than desirable customer service, 100% of the time.

This of course begs the question "Why on earth have you gone repeatedly to a fast food restaurant that consistently disappoints?" And the answer is - yes, we are just that hopeful that somehow, someday, the result will be different.

Adam

Sure, of course they're not moving into the pothole business. But fun campaigns get picked up by other media (including blogs). Free nation-wide advertising is a pretty good return on a pothole or two.

jbInPhilly

It's cheap to fill potholes and get your name on them. More importantly- popular blogs like Freakonomics are likely to read about this strange advertising campaign and write about it- as will the local papers- self generating advertising in large media for next to nothing- pretty smart.

Henry Li

I shouldn't deny that KFC was once one of my favourite restaurant.However,In shenzhen ,guangdong,It's service didn't change,the content of food changed,It became smaller and smaller,and amount of chicken part such as chicken leg or wings become smaller and smaller,It make me dissatisfied.I shouldn't agree to this,I should remind the CEO of KFC of not to go back to bad service,and should offer to the customer in China a larger part of chickens.and Let's eat comfortable and satisfied.Ok.Mr.Levvit.

keith

So someone in KFC marketing decided it was time for a sidewalk-based meme/viral marketing campaign, and sold it to upper management based on the existing Toynbee tiles.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Toynbee_tiles

mfw13

Here in Seattle, I couldn't care less who fills the potholes, as long as somebody does!

The city sure as heck doesn't bother....

Susanne F

I think "a chicken in every pothole" was one of Wavy Gravy's campaign slogans during his hilarious (though unsuccessful) 1990 run for mayor in Berkeley.

Jason

Hamas also provides social services to the people of Lebanon.
It's a common thing in 4th generation warfare.
The Taliban also provided something similar in Afganistan.

sanjeev

"I don't see any reason why KFC should be particularly good at filling potholes, and I don't really see how potholes tie back to chicken"

Who says potholes have to tie back to chicken! Not every ad and marketing campaign is focused only on the product they sell. Having the name on the covered potholes is a good ad, no?

I think its a stretch to compare this with the gang-leader in South Chicago!

Nosybear

Finally, KFC has found a good use for their secret recipe.

Laura Conrad

In my neighborhood, KFC not only doesn't fill potholes, but it doesn't shovel the snow and ice off its sidewalks.

John

Is the service at KFC really that bad? I've gone once or twice a year for as long as I can remember, in NJ, NY, Florida, VA, CA and God knows where else. It definitely takes longer to get food than at McD, but that's because it's practically cooked to order and it's real raw chicken. I'm no KFC apologist (it's not even that good) but the appropriate comparison in terms of speed should be a diner or "casual dining" chain--not a fast food restaurant that pre-fabs everything.

Xian

i'm waiting for McD's or BK to sponser construction of an overpass for the right to use the side of it as advertisement, after that, it will be "This exit is sponsered by [insert company here]". In fact, why not stop allowing billboards being erected and only allow advertisement on overpasses, all advertising dollars go towards maitenance of the overpass/bridge. Picture guardrails, Jersey barriers, and noise walls with logos plastered all over them. No more billboards blocking the scenery, no need for extra electricity due to it being part of the standard roadway lighting. Think about how green this could end up being.

rlk

try Harold's chicken, the chicken king.