What do KFC and DHL have in common? FUBAR as numerous KFC UK outlets close following chicken outage

Den Howlett Profile picture for user gonzodaddy February 19, 2018
What the cluck just happened? DHL has cocked up delivery of chicken to most of KFC's outlets. Not a good time for the ol' Colonel.

KFC closed supply chain
If the KFC St Valentines Day Sniffy cards didn't get you last week then surely the mass closure of KFC outlets in the UK that started over the weekend and continues through to today will have you head scratching.

Here's what Jon Reed had to say in last week's Hits and Misses in the Whiffs section:

If I sound a tad grouchy, it’s just because no one bought me KFC’s fried chicken scented Valentine’s Day cards this year. I’ll get over it by next week…

Jon's back in the U.S. where we hope the KFC supply chain is running smoothly because, in the UK, it's an absolute shitshow. This from CNN:

The fast food chain has been forced to temporarily close hundreds of restaurants in the United Kingdom after a logistics snafu stopped chicken deliveries.

About 800 of the company's roughly 900 locations in Britain were closed as of midday on Monday. Some had opened for business by the afternoon, according to the company's website.

KFC, which is owned by Taco Bell and Pizza Hut parent Yum! said the chicken shortage had been caused by a "couple of teething problems" with its new delivery partner, DHL.

Teething problems? More like total balls up. The problem was first reported over the weekend but has hit national crisis levels. What happened?

KFC is saying very little beyond the 'teething problems' mantra but we do know that DHL was brought in by KFC to replace Bidvest, a specialist in food distribution. That resulted in the loss of 255 jobs and the closure of a Bidvest unit. Some reports say that labor union officials had warned the company that bringing on DHL would be a 'disaster' since DHL has little to no expertise in food distribution. It seems those warnings were prescient. I'd add that in my UK experience, DHL has little idea about delivery at the best of times.

It didn't take long for social media to accelerate into snark mode:

For its part, KFC has attempted to make light of the situation with this:

The site to which that Tweet refers can be found here.

Quite what's happening is anyone's guess as the ol' Colonel has gone quiet. The last update was at 13.20 and it is now 19.20.

My take

As KFC acknowledges, food supply chains are horribly complex and experience matters. KFC said that it had selected DHL for its track record of innovation but as this case illustrates, complexity and JIT can go wrong.

Assuming that DHL gets its act together, the adverse consequences for KFC may be short-lived but, with 80% of the outlets under franchise ownership, there are questions to be asked around revenue and cost compensation.

In the meantime, I doubt our Derek will be worrying too much. He's a confirmed and unashamed Nando's fan.

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