“The risky move, three years in the making, is KFC’s very public admission that its core product — a big bucket filled with fried chicken legs, thighs and breasts on the bone — may ultimately be banished to the dust-heap of fast-food lore. Replacing it: boneless white and dark meat chicken chunks about twice the size of tenders — but still deep-fried with the same super-secret herbs and spices.”
In a USA Today story, KFC — Kentucky Fried Chicken for the youngsters — detailed its plan to do away with everything people love about the greasy place. The bones aren’t going away entirely, it’s just customers will be publicly mocked by strangers and privately shunned by family members if they ask for a big ol’ bucket of bones.
The whole article reads like an Onion piece. Americans love boneless chicken, KFC’s studies reported, and to keep pace with the McDonald’s of the world, the company is rebranding itself as a boneless wonder. “This will be one of the great American turnaround stories,” a KFC president said in the story.
USA Today detailed some of the challenges facing KFC — people don’t go there for lunch, they want healthier offerings, they love chickens and their personalities and don’t like seeing them served up on plates in a delicious manner while pressing against mashed potatoes and mac and cheese. The normal things. “As early as next year, the majority of chicken sold at KFC will be boneless,” according to the story.
To help get people used to the idea, a huge marketing campaign will roll out that includes the phrase “I ate the bones.”
“Executives hope the phrase will instantly go viral and become a pop-cultural obsession, reminiscent of Wendy’s old charmer of a slogan, “Where’s the beef?”
No, no, I checked — the link above really does go to USA Today and not the Onion. Forget for a second the idea of trying to capture the nation’s fancy in the same way as an ad that’s 30 years old and ran before cable dominated and the Internet was even in use. If you were able to replicate those same media and cultural circumstances, would “I ate the bones” be able to compete with the sheer genius that was “Where’s the beef?” One had an old woman looking at a patty. The other? Ads where “customers who buy and eat the new boneless line will be depicted, in sudden panic, as if they’d just swallowed whole chicken bones.”
Somewhere — while he has sex with a woman who’s not his wife, smokes, drinks and contemplates a changing America that’s unfamiliar to him, all while being filmed in a stylish manner — Don Draper weeps.
Logistically it barely makes any sense. I ate the bones…but there aren’t any bones in this fancy new product, so what in god’s name do I think I just consumed since everything is supposed to be a mashed-up, boneless, tender-like clump of fowl? It also brings up the question of what four-word sentences containing vague sexual innuendo were rejected before they landed on this one.
“No getting boned here.”
“Try not getting boned.”
I only eat at KFC about two times a year, nothing like the two times a week schedule that existed during my bachelor days in the Midwest. No one in New York City believes me when I talk about the KFC buffet I visited so often, where I would load up on corn, potatoes, salad and, of course, chicken with bones. It was magical, and I went home smelling like herbs and spices. The last few years we’ve gone to KFC the day before Thanksgiving and Christmas and loaded up on a bucket that will last three or four days and take us through the holiday meal in our New York City apartment.
I don’t know if this extends internationally, though I hope not. We always make a trip to the KFC near Louise’s parents’ house in Cape Town and the chicken — though surely made with that same secret recipe — somehow tastes different than the American version — different and, dare I say, better.
With my non-degree in business, I wonder why you’d change what you do best, even if others are doing something — boneless chicken, delicious, chicken tenders — better. But who am I to argue with a billion-dollar company, especially one that was once led by a full Colonel? Just don’t expect me to utter the line “I ate the bones,” not even when it becomes the hot phrase for our country’s youth. And if the classic KFC pieces end up on the “dust heap” of history? Don’t expect me to go boneless.