Why did Kentucky Fried Chicken Get So Bad?

Those of you who have ever enjoyed Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC) may have observed a reduction in the caliber of their cuisine over time. The formerly adored fast food giant has come under fire for a number of things, including its subpar customer service and dubious business methods. The quality of KFC’s food, though, may be the biggest problem.

KFC fast food restaurant. Kentucky Fried Chicken

What led to KFC’s decline, then? Several elements are at work. The chain’s departure from its original formula is among the most important.

Harland Sanders created the special mixture of 11 herbs and spices that become the chain’s defining flavor before establishing KFC in 1930.

However, KFC has abandoned this method in recent years in favor of a more efficient strategy that relies on pre-packaged breading and seasoning.

As a result, the particular flavor that once made KFC so well-known has been lost.

History of Kentucky Fried Chicken

Harland Sanders established Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC) in 1930. He started out by selling fried chicken from his roadside shack in Corbin, Kentucky.

KFC Fast Food Restaurant Kentucky Fried Chicken

By 1952, Sanders had franchised his idea to over 300 establishments across the United States and Canada after his distinctive blend of 11 herbs and spices quickly gained popularity.

Sanders sold the business to a group of financiers led by John Y. Brown Jr. and Jack Massey in 1964, and they started promoting the brand internationally.

With more than 3,500 stores globally by the 1970s, KFC had established itself as one of the most popular fast-food franchises in the world.

KFC started to experience difficulties in the 1980s as competition from other fast-food companies grew.

Popcorn chicken, chicken strips, and the “Famous Bowl” were among the new menu items that KFC created in an effort to stay competitive, but customers did not take to them as well as the company’s original fried chicken recipe, and sales of KFC continued to fall.

The parent company of KFC, Yum! Brands, tried to rebrand the restaurant chain as “KFC” in the early 2000s in an effort to disassociate the name from the word “fried,” which was perceived as unhealthy.

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Customers’ reactions to this change were conflicting, as many of them were devoted to the original Kentucky Fried Chicken brand.

KFC currently operates more than 18,000 restaurants across 118 nations and territories, with China serving as its largest market.

Although the restaurant is still well-liked throughout most of the world, it has come under fire for its high-calorie, high-fat menu items and the way it treats chickens in its supply chain.

Changes in Quality

You might have observed a deterioration in the caliber of Kentucky Fried Chicken’s meals over time.

KFC Popular fast food restaurant For Thais now Featured menu

This transition has occurred for a number of reasons, including modifications to the company’s ownership, menu, and ingredients.

When Yum! Brands acquired KFC in 1997, one of the biggest quality modifications took place. The company’s emphasis shifted from quality to profitability as a result of this transaction.

As a result, numerous franchises started making cost-cutting decisions, which ultimately had an effect on the food’s quality.

The addition of additional menu items was another aspect that led to a deterioration in quality.

KFC has expanded its menu with new items including sandwiches and wraps in an effort to stay on top of shifting consumer preferences.

Franchises struggled to maintain the same level of quality across all items as these new things required various cooking techniques and supplies.

The quality has also declined as a result of modifications to the ingredients KFC uses. Many restaurants started using less expensive components, like inferior chicken and oils, to cut costs.

In addition, KFC started using trans fats in its cooking, which have been connected to a number of health issues.

Overall, Kentucky Fried Chicken’s quality has declined as a result of these changes in ownership, the menu, and the ingredients.

Although KFC has made improvements to its meals recently, many customers still think the quality has not reached its previous high point.

Impact of Fast Food Industry Trends

In recent years, the fast food sector has undergone tremendous change, with many restaurants refocusing on healthier menu selections and more environmentally friendly procedures.

KFC Hamburger and Fried Chicken set at fast food restaurant

The fact that Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC) has been reluctant to adopt these trends has hurt both its brand’s reputation and customer satisfaction.

The transition to healthier menu alternatives has been one of the biggest changes in the fast food sector.

Many chains have responded to consumer concerns about the health effects of fast food by providing healthier options including salads, grilled chicken, and vegetarian or vegan selections.

In contrast, KFC has mostly stuck to its standard menu of fried chicken and sides, which has hurt its ability to draw in consumers who are health-conscious.

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Concern over sustainability and ethical sourcing is another trend that has affected the fast food sector.

Many chains have responded to the growing consumer interest in the origins and production methods of their products by implementing more ethical and environmental procedures.

KFC’s reputation among consumers who value social responsibility has been harmed by earlier criticism of its sourcing policies, especially in relation to the treatment of chickens.

In addition to these general industry changes, KFC has recently experienced particular difficulties.

For instance, the company has had trouble adapting to shifting consumer tastes, especially those of younger generations who are more likely to look for unusual and cutting-edge eating experiences.

Other fast food restaurants, particularly those that have adopted healthier and more environmentally friendly practices, have intensified their competitiveness with KFC.

KFC has been reluctant to adjust to these developments, despite the fact that the fast food sector as a whole is going through major upheaval.

As a result, the chain has had trouble attracting and keeping customers, and both its brand reputation and customer satisfaction have suffered.

Consumer Feedback and Perception

Consumer opinions and perceptions have a significant impact on the performance and reputation of fast food restaurants. The same applies to Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC).

Menu set of Kentucky Fried Chicken

Customers’ opinions of KFC have been inconsistent over the years.

While some patrons laud the company for its mouth watering fried chicken and distinct flavor, others bemoan its deteriorating quality, subpar customer support, and tasteless menu options.

The majority of customers were pleased with the flavor of Kentucky Fried Chicken’s fried chicken, according to a case study on consumer satisfaction with KFC undertaken by Rudresh Pandey, K.S.

Srinivasa Rao, Jain University, Cha Ching Er Daisy Mui Hung Kee, and Universiti Sains Malaysia.

They did, however, voice reservations regarding the chain’s cost, cleanliness, and level of service.

A further finding of the study was that customers’ opinions of KFC’s brand image and reputation significantly influenced their level of pleasure.

Customers’ perceptions of the brand may have been impacted by negative news, viral events, and unsuccessful marketing strategies, creating unwanted connotations.

In addition to the case study, a number of other sources also lend credence to the notion that KFC’s falling reputation and sales have been influenced by consumers’ comments and perceptions.

An essay titled Fast-Food Decline: Why Did Kentucky Fried Chicken Lose Its Quality, for instance, makes the case that KFC’s marketing and brand reputation were key factors in influencing consumers’ perceptions.

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The public’s view of the brand may have been damaged by negative publicity, viral events, or efforts that failed to connect with the target demographic, creating negative connections.

Overall, consumer opinions and perceptions have been extremely important in determining KFC’s success and reputation.

Even though the chain has received a range of reviews over the years, it is obvious that bad press, ineffective marketing strategies, and deteriorating quality have all played a role in its dwindling sales and reputation.

Frequently Asked Questions

KFC is a fast food restaurant chain that specializes in fried chicken

Why has KFC’s chicken quality gone down?

According to a former KFC employee on Quora, the chicken quality has gone down because the birds used to come in whole and on ice, but now they arrive pre-cut and frozen. This change has resulted in less fresh and flavorful chicken.

Has KFC changed its cooking methods?

Yes, KFC has changed its cooking methods over the years. Colonel Harland Sanders, the founder of KFC, was one of the first cooks to use a pressure fryer, which helped make the chicken crispy on the outside and juicy on the inside. However, KFC has since switched to using an oven instead of a pressure fryer, which has resulted in less flavorful chicken.

Why did KFC change its name to KFC?

KFC changed its name to KFC in 1991 to avoid using the word “fried” in its name. The company wanted to distance itself from the negative connotations associated with fried food and emphasize its other menu items, such as salads and grilled chicken.

Is KFC’s secret recipe really a secret?

KFC’s secret recipe is supposed to be a closely guarded secret, but a copy of the recipe allegedly leaked in 2016. According to Mashed, the recipe includes 11 herbs and spices, including salt, thyme, and basil. However, KFC has not confirmed whether this recipe is accurate.

Is KFC still popular despite its decline in quality?

KFC is still a popular fast food chain, with over 22,000 locations worldwide. However, its decline in quality has led to some customers seeking out other fried chicken options.


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  1. The quality of the chicken has dropped too far for me..The last two purchases of chicken has made me physically sick..Purchases made were 2 weeks apart..Not at all like the chicken during the 60s etc..Such a shame..

  2. Yes, I agree with the article. Our KFC isn’t the cleanest restaurant around. I has a much smaller working force than Popeyes where we eat a couple times a week.

  3. Not only KFC. All businesses have poor services now days. There help is subpar there Appearances of employees dressed and hygiene. No hair net’s…And secondary food Items.

  4. I used to go and eat there when I was a kid in the 70’s it was so good, now when I go to one all I can taste in the chicken is SALTYYYYY, SO SALTY to the point I can’t even finish one piece of chicken!!! If they just used the original recipe and a pressure cooker instead of a oven they would have quality AND profits. I’m willing to bet anything customers would come back in droves.

  5. My wife and I are old enough to have experienced Kentucky Fried Chicken when it was still a product of Colonel Sanders. We would still be consumers if company greed had not superceded quality.

  6. An amazing sight was the opening of a new Popeye’s less than a quarter mile from a long standing KFC in Port Saint Lucie Florida about 3 years ago. KFC went from a consistently packed parking lot and lengthy drive-thru line to being a ghost town, with literally no one there when Popeye’s opened. That KFC has never recovered from that, and is still a mere shadow of what it was. Tells you something, tight?

  7. We stopped our stops at KFC as they raised prices. Not a good value. We shifted to Chicfali (SP), taste and price.

  8. I recently stopped by my local KFC for dinner. I was told matter-of-fact they were “out of chicken!”. Call to Corporate was dismissed by:we’ll look into it “. I bought an air fryer cheaper, healthier and much better tasting!

  9. The size of the chicken has extremely decreased in size the portions of the other items have also changed and they are so expensive now that it’s not worth it anymore I used to love Kentucky fried Chicken I won’t even go there now

  10. I was wondering why the original recipe was drier and the chicken parts much smaller not as tasty as before. I blamed it on our age since it seemed to change.

  11. Used to love the brand, the chicken and was a family favorite. Unfortunately, the quality of the chicken that appear to be no older that a month old due to the size of the pieces. The flavor of the breading is off, either bad oil or stale breading. Gotta return to Church’s Fried Chicken though its 45 minutes travel.

  12. Unfortunately, I have to agree with KFC’s unhappy customers. I just tried the advertised $20 box(which cost $26). It was the worst thing I’ve ever had from KFC. I used to eat KFC a couple two or three times a month. The biscuits were smashed by the 4 pieces of chicken and full of grease (from said chicken), the French fries were pretty good, several pieces of the chicken nuggets were mostly gristle with almost all the coating rubbed off…all in all it was not very appetizing to look at and even less appealing to eat. And there was no flavor. Unfortunately most of the meal went in the garbage as it wasn’t worth the twenty minute drive back into town (I live about 15 miles out of town) to do anything about it.

  13. It used to be outstanding but now ,not even close. They should never have gotten rid of the potato wedges. I could go on and on but I’ll cut it short.

  14. My folks ran one in 70’s excellent chicken and all sides as well. Been a big fan till last few years. It is not good including all of the sides. They really cheapened it up bad. Lastly I am not going to pay $30 for an 8 piece meal that sucks. Wasn’t sure if they are trying to keep up with steak prices, chicken is not steak. I do miss KFC but not at that price and inferior food.

  15. Am not liking KFC like I used too it definitely is not as good as it use to be I have notice it for a while and I don’t eat there as much as I use to, I seek out other fried chicken sources am very disappointed and sad about it I actually had some yesterday did not enjoy it at all I probably will not go back for sometime.

  16. For some reason there is no, or microscopically little of ANY spices on the chicken. PERIOD.. The soggy breading is loaded with grease. The incredibly tough chicken that full of cheap grease make it impossible to eat. After avoiding KFC for 18 months we were remhyinded why we left after being a weekly customer. Add employees who look disheveled and uncaring to a product without spices is pathetic.

  17. Dont like anymore too greasey . U can look at the box an see how greasey it is .i bought one of their now 20.oo box .has fries chicken bites bucuits three peices of chicken an dipping sauce . I only live about 11 miles away the bottom of the was greasey lucking i had put on the floor boad in my car are it would had been on my seat

  18. No matter what state I ate KFC in it sucked,it was greasy and it had no real taste and that was the same everywhere!!!

  19. The food is horrible and most of the restaurants in my area are dirty and expensive. Popeyes is better tasting. A case of if it ain’t broke don’t fix it. The changes made have ruined kfc.

  20. I have had trouble at KFC with the employees. The chicken is a lot tastefull than it use to be. I don’t eat there anymore. They need to change back to original recipe.

  21. Their quality and customer service is so bad, and they change to poor quality chicken from whom ever they get their chicken from. KFC not the the chicken restaurant it was back in the day. When changed how ther prepared their chicken, the outcome became a slippery slope to disaster. New Ownership made incredibly stupid changes, the results were catastrophic. To the brand!!!!

  22. The last time I had Chicken from KFC it tasted terrible! I haven’t been there since. Yuk!!! This was in Anderson Indiana.

  23. KFC has totally left the customer out. Flavor is not there, quantity is 1/2, employees hate the customer.
    Chicken is aged and sit for long periods of time. Cost is out of control for the amount one receives.
    Don’t waste your time visiting KFC!

  24. I used to eat KFC weekly back in the 90’s…but differences in taste.quality.prices has had its adverse effect…my disappointment has led to me not purchasing any KFC in over 10 years

  25. The taste and quality has dropped dramatically. The customer service is horrible and the restaurant itself is filthy. The portions are smaller, but more expensive. Will never go to kfc again.

  26. I can tell you exactly why.
    Private equity.
    These are firms that look for quick returns on investments for those who paid them money to get the return (the Investor).
    The fastest way to get the return is to cut costs. The ‘investors’ in these schemes want a fast return, not something over 10, 15, years etc.
    The PE firms have such a large portfolio that they only need to be on board for a short time, make it profitable, and sell, and buy another. Whoever buys that after is on the short end of the stick.
    Read Byron Burger or GBK in the UK for reference…

  27. Years ago I called a radio station and asked the host why does KFC cut the chicken into 9 pieces wings 2 2 thighs 2 legs and the breast was cut into 3 pieces and that’s when I stopped buying it.

  28. KFC-is lousy! Col.Sanders. is rolling in his grave! The chicken don’t taste no where like it used to.
    We go to Popeyes now.

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Written by Brian Nagele

Brian attended West Virginia University, then started his career in the IT industry before following his passion for marketing and hospitality. He has over 20 years experience in the restaurant and bar industry.

As a former restaurant owner, he knows about running a food business and loves to eat and enjoy cocktails on a regular basis. He constantly travels to new cities tasting and reviewing the most popular spots.

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