We've seen KFC eleven's logo, menu and interior. Here, David Menis, senior manager, concept development at KFC talks about the ideas that went into all three of those areas as well as KFC's criteria for considering this test concept a success. And, for the record, when asked what dishes to sample, he suggests the Southwestern Baja Flatbread, Tango Rice Bowl and BBQ Bacon Ranch Flatbread.
Explain what we are looking at here in the restaurant. What are some of the basic things that when a customer enters this new KFC eleven, they're going to get hit with?
When a customer enters this KFC eleven, we think that they're stepping into a totally new, transformative experience—what I mean by that is an all aspects of the brand. So when we set about developing this concept, we took a good step back and said, what are consumers really looking for from a menu standpoint? What are they looking for from a service standpoint? How do they want to engage with team members and employees? And where do they want to eat? How do they want to sit? All those different things.
What we've tried to do is address changing consumer needs across all those different platforms. So you see it from a menu standpoint in terms of our emphasis on interesting formats and flavors. You see it from a service standpoint in terms of highlighting the fresh preparation and the quality. And you see it from a decor standpoint in terms of creating an environment that is comfortable-where you can sit and relax and enjoy lunch, dinner or a snack.
What specific decor things did you try out?
What we've done is create different seating zones in the restaurant. We've looked to create areas where, perhaps, families might feel more comfortable and then areas that might be more appealing to young adults or individuals who may be dining on their own or with just one other person. And we really did that through the use of decorative elements as well as different seating elements—be they booths, banquets or some high tops that are more like bar tables. So we really tried to create different spaces for people to feel comfortable.
Where did you go for your inspiration?
We looked at a lot of things. This is tough because I'm on the record. This is tough because I'm a foodie so I go into restaurants. Obviously we've taken a look at some of the fast-casual competitors that are out there. We've also taken a look at a lot of the recent upgrades other major chains have done, from Wendy's or McDonalds. And then we've taken a look at smaller chains and things that we really like about them. For instance, I took a trip up to Boston to visit Boloco to understand what they are doing. So I think what is really cool about the core team that put this together is that, at our core, we may have different functional disciplines, but we're all inherently foodies and restaurateurs. So that's enabled us to develop a holistic concept.
Why did you decide on Louisville [for the text concept]?
We honestly didn't think there was any other place. We feel incredibly strongly about Louisville, as a whole, and highlighting this community in particular. And so when we set about thinking of wanting to do an innovation restaurant that could help inform the evolution and the transformation of the KFC brand, to do it in the place was KFC was originally hatched felt like the only choice there was. So we're super excited to be here, to be part of the community and look forward to partnering with the community in significant ways as we set about opening the restaurant.
Have you used a lot of local suppliers?
All our artwork has been sourced from a local gallery, Zephyr, and is comprised, as well as the Kentucky Museum of Art and Craft, so it's comprised of art created by local Highlands artists so, supporting the community in that way. As part of our grand opening celebration on August 11th we're donating 11 percent of our proceeds to Junior Achievement. So we're engaging certainly with a well-known charity in that respect.
And then as we start to think about how we want to engage with the community in the future, we're going to be doing much more outreach to organizations to enable them to use the restaurant as a way to help grow their own organization. So if they want to hold an event here, say, we would be able to work out an arrangement with them where they would receive a certain percentage of proceeds. One of the benefits about being in Louisville, being in the Highlands community, we feel this community is extremely strong and it's really important for us to be a part of it and to continue to help it grow. So we're committed to doing that.
What's it gonna take for this to be considered a success and duplicated en masse? What are you looking for?
Our goal right now is to identify, through the innovation restaurant, identify menu items, service elements, decor elements that can help inform the evolution of the base KFC brand. And so we're solely focused on this one restaurant at this point in time. So what we're really looking for is consumer response. We based all of our concept development on understanding the consumer so we think we've put together a holistic restaurant package that consumers are gonna get really excited about.
How are you gonna measure consumer response? You're in a great location. You could put the Bluth banana stand from Arrested Development here and there would be a lineup for it. You're at the intersection of two main streets in one of the city's busiest districts. I assume it's more than just money brought in for different items. What are you looking at?
Certainly we're interested in financial performance, but, more so than that, we're interested in building a buzz, maintaining and growing a local clientele. We think that if you take a look at the menu from all the different flavors to all the different formats, there is enough where you can come several times a week and enjoy a different experience each time. And, in fact, we've heard that in focus groups from consumers, that they took a look at the menu and said, "Wow. I can see myself grabbing a sandwich for lunch, coming for a rice bowl for dinner and on the weekend grabbing one of your indulgent drinks as I walk down the street." So what we are really looking for is to grow and maintain the loyal clientele here. I think we're set up to do just that.
I'm sure it's not a thought you've had at all, but what if it fails miserably? Are they gonna convert this back to the regular KFC? Will it just stay open? Will they keep the interior?
We don't anticipate that happening or intend for it to do so. However, the goal of this is really to learn. And so, in everything we do, we're gonna gain some learning. I think that the benefit of being one restaurant in the heart of Louisville is that we can adapt. We're committed to doing that as well. We certainly don't anticipate this to not receive a positive consumer response, but we're certainly open to learnings.
How far out is KFC committed to trying this, as it is, before tinkering with some stuff?
We're really gonna need to sit back and understand and see the consumer traffic patterns. How people are coming in before we make that sort of judgement. I don't think we're in a postion where I can tell you three months in things are changing, six months in, because we just don't know. We feel confident in what we have created and we're really excited about sharing it with the community and we'll see where we go from there.
Now I've read recently you guys were looking at a different fast, casual concept as well, not necessarily KFC eleven, that was going to open some place around here.
I honestly don't know what you are referring to.
There is an article on Insider Louisville.
Well what we've stated is that we're committed to certainly opening this restaurant and understanding that as well as opening a second restaurant by the end of the year.
Would it be a second KFC eleven or is it a second, different fast casual concept?
It would be a second KFC eleven.
What were you thinking about food wise? What inspired the menu?
So, a few things. We sat back. We did our consumer research. We looked at data. What we saw is that chicken has, and continues to be, an incredibly important protein. It continues to grow in popularity. Then what we saw is that there is this sort of flavor explosion going on. Consumers are really interested in using food as a way to explore culture and to engage with their senses. So we saw chicken and we saw flavor explosion. And then we saw the growth of various different formats, be it rice bowls or flatbreads and certainly salads have been there for a while. So what we sought to do is to combine those three and offer consumers flavor variety across a variety of platforms with a specific emphasis on things that are portable, because we know consumers are more and more on the go, so our food needs to be created and crafted to match that.
Now this building already had the drive through. Is that something if it didn't you would have added? Because some of the competitors in this fast-casual business do not have a drive-through?
One of the things we're interested in is the drive-through. The majority of our 4,500 KFC restaurants have a drive through. In order to fully understand the impact of what we're working on here, to the entire system, understanding the drive-through is an important aspect.
Much has been in the media over Col. Sanders's disappearance from the logo. Whether that's going to hurt the brand, whether you're trying to distance yourself from him, KFC is still prominent though; it's in the name. Was there a thought to dissociate that entirely? Whether it's KFC eleven or KFC, people might think more fast food than fast casual. Is that an issue?
We don't see it as an issue. We actually see the inclusion of KFC as a benefit, as one of the strengths of the concept.
KFC has been known forever for great tasting chicken. And what we've offered here and what we are putting forth to the public is great tasting chicken in a variety of formats and in a variety of flavors. And so what we feel that we've done is we've taken the core assets of KFC, in terms of the 11 herbs and spices, which made our flavor that great from the start and now put it across a variety of relevant flavors and relevant platforms for consumers to enjoy. So we actually view the inclusion of KFC as a huge positive because it gives us significant credibility.
What about the regular KFC consumer? They see a KFC eleven where the prices are a little higher, the dishes are little bit different. Do you think that, at all, might impact their thoughts on KFC, in terms of having the brands overlapping?
We actually have designed the concept so it has broad appeal. We expect the concept to appeal to current KFC customers as well as non KFC customers so we have a number of traditional favorites on the menu from our Boneless Original Recipe, which launched this year, to our Crispy Bites, to an updated sides portfolio which features the sides that consumers have come to know and love from KFC. But it's just a little updated, with a twist. So we fully expect that consumers who are core customers for base KFC will come here and find familiar favorites. But then also have the opportunity to explore and find new favorites from our innovative menu.
·All KFC eleven coverage [~ELOU~]
[Photo: Zach Everson]