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Something to Think About While You Wait in Line at KFC


I’ve loved the chicken at KFC ever since I was a kid. My parents were cheap, so KFC was splurging when I was growing up. About twice a year my pleading, perhaps in a combination with a well-timed TV advertisement, would convince my parents to bring the family to KFC.

“What is so ironic about the poor service at KFC is that, at the corporate level, they seem to try so hard to achieve good service.”

For as long as I have been eating KFC, the service has always been terrible. Yesterday was a good example. I went with my daughter Amanda. From the moment we entered the store to the time we left with our food, 26 minutes had elapsed. The line was so slow inside the restaurant that we eventually gave up and went through the drive-thru. We eventually got our food, but no napkins, straws, or plastic ware. That was still better than the time I went to KFC only to be told that they were out of chicken.
What is so ironic about the poor service at KFC is that, at the corporate level, they seem to try so hard to achieve good service. The name tag on the guy behind the counter yesterday said that he was a “customer maniac,” or something like that, as part of KFC’s “customer mania.” A few years back, I seem to remember they were focused on total quality improvement. At another point, I think they had posted on the wall a list of 10 customer-oriented service mantras all workers were supposed to strive for.
So why is it that KFC’s service remains so bad? I have two mutually consistent hypotheses as to why; maybe blog readers have better ideas:
1) KFC doesn’t have enough people working. The next time you are at McDonald’s, count the number of workers. It always stuns me how many people are on duty. It is not uncommon to see 15 to 20 people working at a time in a busy McDonald’s. There seem to be many fewer people working at KFC. I think there were only four or five workers yesterday when I visited.
2) KFC’s clientele is poorer than the customers at other fast food outlets, and poor people are less willing to pay for good service. There is no question in my mind that service is generally terrible in places frequented by the poor. Whether it is because poor people care less about service, I’m not sure. I do know that I virtually never saw bad service in the entire year I spent visiting Stanford, which I’ve always attributed to the fact that there are so many rich people in the area.