I try to keep up with what’s happening with franchises and QSR’s for both personal and professional reasons.  However; I missed this one story that a co-worker sent to me about the ongoing KFC vs. El Pollo Loco debate/feud/stunt comparing their two versions of grilled chicken. It’s quite entertaining so I feel compelled to comment and pose a few questions.

FIrst, are they for real?  Is this a publicity stunt the two agreed on or is this really happening? It’s hard to imagine either scenario.

El Pollo Loco is a franchise of over 400 locations, mostly in the southern and southwestern part of the United States and their claim to fame is their citrus-marinated grilled chicken.  KFC, as most of us know, is the national chain of over 5,000 fried chicken restaurants, made famous because of the amiable Colonel’s secret recipe.  In recent years, they changed their name from Kentucky Fried Chicken to KFC to get away from using the word “fried” and the unhealthy association it brings with.

Now, KFC is introducing a grilled version of chicken, called KGC and to make a big splashy introduction, gave away free chicken this past Monday. El Pollo Loco has responded to the competition by launching “Taste the Fire” call-in taste test.  In some recent news and TV commercials, El Pollo Loco is claiming that employees of KFC and/or their parent company, Yum Brands, are calling the hotline pretending to be average Joes, voting for KFC’s version of grilled chicken.  They are also throwing down the gauntlet to get KFC to publicly respond. See the You Tube video from El Pollo loco here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Jyn7iDJQnyQ See some of the El Pollo Loco commercials here: http://www.elpolloloco.com/whatsnew/commercials.html

Another aspect of this feud is the true definition of grilling.  El Pollo Loco says their chicken is grilled over an open flame, as most consumers would expect when ordering grilled chicken.  KFC says their chicken too is grilled, but on a special grill pan, placed in a proprietary oven.

To date, KFC has not launched any type of reaction, other than to answer questions directed to their corporate offices.  So, who is the winner here?  Is there a winner? Are both companies getting publicity?  Yes. What’s yet to come? Only time will tell but I know one thing, it’s making me hungry and I’d like to try both–if only there was an El Pollo Loco closer to my neighborhood!