Cheah’s family-run fried chicken joint, Chicken George in Luton, won best takeaway at the British Takeaway Awards in 2016 so they are never short of custom, but since the great fried chicken crisis of 2018 began more than a week ago they have been inundated.
“I reckon our business has doubled in the past week,” said Cheah. “We’ve been really, really busy, like packed. With KFC being shut, lots of people are tagging us on social media saying they’d rather have a George anyway.”
Chicken George is not the only takeaway straining under the demand for fried chicken as customers attempt to get their fix following the closure of most of KFC’s U.K. outlets last week. The hashtag #KFCCrisis trended on Twitter, and no fewer than three police forces issued statements asking the public not to contact them about the closures. Police in Tower Hamlets issued a terse tweet: “Please do not contact us about the #KFCCrisis - it is not a police matter if your favourite eatery is not serving the menu that you desire.”
KFC was brief and somewhat sheepish in the statement posted in its shops, saying there had been “a few hiccups with the delivery today.” The crisis soon spread, however, leading the company to point the finger at its new logistics partners. “We’ve brought a new delivery partner on board, but they’ve had a couple of teething problems,” it said in a statement. There were reports of desperate managers attempting to bulk-buy chicken from supermarkets, and of frustrated attempts to give away surplus chicken in a storage depot that the local council confirmed had not been registered.
So where did it all go wrong? The “new delivery partner,” otherwise known as the behemoth DHL, took over the KFC logistics contract on Valentine’s Day, alongside Quick Service Logistics (QSL), which has supplied KFC in Europe since 2011. Problems began almost immediately. By 16 February, KFC had started to shut down locations after managers complained of delays to deliveries and by 18 February only 266 of 900 restaurants in the U.K. were open.
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