Oprah, Free KFC….. Guess what happened next

As we reported yesterday, Oprah and KFC teamed up to promote KFC’s new “Kentucky Grilled Chicken” product with a free coupon offering “two pieces of grilled chicken, two individual sides and a biscuit.” Offering free food at any time is going to be popular, but during a recession you know that demand will be even higher again. So you can probably take a guess at what happened next.

The difficulty is to know where to start. The short version: riots, racial abuse, pandemonium, a near complete breakdown of KFC’s entire supply chain, and some KFC stores simply refusing to honor the coupons.

The reports of a riot (or small riot or near riot depending on the report) come from New York, where customers where told that one KFC outlet in Manhattan would not accept the coupon, despite many customers having queued for hours. Another Manhattan KFC store ran out of chicken, resulting in reports of racial abuse and police being called. Other stores in the area had “sit-ins” with customers refusing to leave until they had received their free chicken.

According to a report at Business Insider, the entire supply chain for KFC is on the verge of breaking down, with the company scrambling to find more chicken. The report claims that KFC will run out of chicken by Saturday.

Other reports from across the United States say that a significant number of KFC stores are refusing to accept the coupon. KFC stores are primarily franchise operations, so although head office has a strong say in promotions, local owners operate each store.

And of course, we can’t finish without mentioning the “Oprah backlash” from vegetarians and animal rights groups. According to the LA Times, “they” are saying that Oprah is hypocritical, particularly since Oprah has tried to shed a spotlight on farm animal cruelty — a spotlight that helped lead PETA to award her its “Person of the Year” honors.

A spokeswoman said that Oprah’s intent with the promotion was to give families a financial break during these tough economic times.