KFC Tastes Success After Focusing On Boneless Offerings

When you see that red and white bucket hit your table, it doesn't just mean "fried chicken" anymore. Last quarter, KFC introduced chicken nuggets to its menu and sold roughly 100 million of them in the span of eight weeks, reports Restaurant Business. Nugget sales alone were enough to boost same-store sales by an average of 5%. 

The intrepid foray into the world of boneless offerings might've been a lesson in global taste. According to Yum Brands Inc. CFO Chris Turner, 85% of KFC stores exist outside of the U.S., and regional offerings like the Biryani Chicken over rice have been enjoying big sales in India for catering to local palettes. Now, KFC is bringing this "know your audience" idea to a larger scale — and, clearly, it's paying off.

KFC is meeting competitors like Raising Cane's and Chick-fil-A, which showcase boneless chicken offerings as their menus' main event and have reaped impressive sales in recent years. In 2022, Chick-fil-A saw revenue hit $6.37 billion, and KFC clocked in at a revenue of $6.8 billion, a 3.92% increase from 2021. KFC began testing its chicken nuggets in Charlotte, N.C. restaurants last summer and popcorn chicken hit menus around the same time. The 100% white meat nuggets come in KFC's signature breading and are sold as a standalone item or part of a combo meal.

The Colonel is retaining his relevance

This isn't KFC's first time expanding into boneless territory. The fast food giant tried selling boneless chicken in 2013 and 86'ed it by 2014. In a Facebook statement, KFC said of the discontinuation, "We are currently transitioning to a different chicken promotion. There may be more boneless offers in the future," via Brand Eating. It could be viewed as more or less a flub. Although, back in 2013, the chain's boneless offering was a version of its classic chicken pieces that resembled the breast, thigh, and drumstick shapes — effectively chicken tenders. This time around, the nuggets are performing much better.

As CEO David Gibbs tells Restaurant Business, the nuggets aim to attract a new, perhaps younger audience who might not have been intrigued by the chain's signature bone-in chicken offering. These new offerings may scoop up the McNugget crowd, but KFC doesn't exactly have its sights set on kiddos. According to a study by popular point-of-sale system Toast, convenience is one of the most prominent dining trends for Gen Z consumers in 2023. These nuggets are handheld and easy to eat for on-the-go snacking, and Gen Z foodies in particular are turning their attention toward elevated takes on basics, says the Toast study. As Robert Byrne of restaurant consulting firm, Technomic, told CNN Business, "The earlier you can engage with a consumer, the more potential you have for building loyalty and building frequency over the course of more years."