“Colonel” Harlan Sanders shuffled off this mortal coil in 1980, 16 years after he sold Kentucky Fried Chicken to a group of investors who started KFC’s ascent to worldwide status. The chain now resides in the portfolio of Yum Brands, where it fell victim to corner-cutting on ingredients and processes, incompetent store employees and other shortcomings corporate bureaucrats think customers won’t notice.
Yum is fighting declining sales with a program it calls “Re-Colonelization.” That has meant figuratively exhuming the Colonel — white suit, black string tie and all. Some of the processes he invented have been re-instituted. Stores are being remodeled as shrines to the serial entrepreneur who criticized the quality of KFC food after he sold out. (They paid him an extra million bucks to shut up.)
Colonel Sanders returned to TV last year, played by Darrell Hammond of “Saturday Night Live.” Mr. Hammond apparently envisioned a lucrative gig lasting for years, but Yum pulled the rug within months in favor of an SNL alum, Norm McDonald. “I felt like a fool,” Hammond told a national radio show.
On the day of the Super Bowl, the white suit was passed to yet another comedian, Jim Gaffigan, and now he has an assistant, veteran actor George Hamilton, who as a beach-bum cousin of the Colonel specifically pitches extra-crispy chicken. (Give KFC’s ad agency, Wieden+Kennedy, credit for creativity.)
Back in the trenches, Yum is working to produce edible food served by competent and pleasant people, but the cause likely is lost. KFC’s chief marketing officer recently admitted that only 2 in 5 millennials have even tried it. Chick-fil-A will continue to clean KFC’s greasy clock for years to come, no bones about it.
Meanwhile, we await the sacking of Gaffigan. Maybe his replacement will be an edgy choice, perhaps the first-ever Colonel of color, who sure would look sharp in that white suit.