KFC made 3 drastic changes -- and now the business is on fire

Funny Terms Chains Are Using to Avoid 'Fast Food' Label

KFC has executed a remarkable turnaround in the last couple years.

The chain's same-store sales grew 3% in fiscal 2015, after plunging more than 15% two years earlier.

KFC is gaining considerable momentum especially in the US, where same-store sales have increased 8% on a two-year basis.

Here's how KFC is winning back customers:

1. KFC's revival of its mascot, Colonel Sanders, is returning relevance to the brand.

The chain hadn't used Colonel Sanders in advertising for 21 years before bringing him back in a new advertising campaign last May.

"The brand's reinvigoration with Saturday Night Live alums playing the role of founder Colonel Sanders has brought some buzz back to the concept," Nomura analyst Mark Kalinowski wrote in a recent note.

KFC executives have also said the new marketing campaign has been a a success.

"If you looked at social media over Halloween, there were zillions of Colonel Sanders costumes — not just kids, but adults," Kevin Hochman, KFC's chief marketing officer, said at an event debuting Nashville Hot Chicken in New York City in January.

See photos of KFC's Colonel Sanders:

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KFC made 3 drastic changes -- and now the business is on fire
A bucket of KFC Extra Crispy fried chicken is displayed October 30, 2006 in San Rafael, California. KFC is phasing out trans fats and plans to use zero trans fat soybean oil for cooking of their Original Recipe and Extra Crispy fried chicken as well as other menu items. KFC expects to have all of its 5,500 restaurants in the U.S. switched to the new oil by April 2007. (Photo Illustration by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
SALT LAKE CITY, UT - AUGUST 12: The first KFC site, located at 3900 South at State Street still does business August 12, 2002 in south Salt Lake City, Utah. KFC, with 11,815 locations worldwide, including 5,399 in the United States, is celebrating its 50th anniversary. Colonel Harland Sanders persuaded Pete Harman to add his specialty chicken, coated with a blend of 11 herbs and spices, to the menu of Harman's cafe in August 1952. The dish became an instant hit. (Photo by Danny La/Getty Images)
Sheldon Baren (C) and others of a group of 30 men dressed like the late Colonel Harlan Sanders, the founder of the Kentucky Fried Chicken fast food chain, watch the home opener of the Chicago White Sox at Comiskey Park 09 April. The group was given tickets by the restaurant chain to watch the game against the Texas Rangers. (Photo credit should read BRIAN BAHR/AFP/Getty Images)
Two people walk past a KFC fast food restaurant (L) in Shanghai on July 23, 2014. (Photo by JOHANNES EISELE via AFP/Getty Images)
ME.Downtown.Colonel.010997.MBÂÂ(Orange)ÂA lifesize statue of Colonel Sanders greets customers walking down Glassell Ave in Orange along the famed antique row. (Photo by Mark Boster/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)
Harland Colonel Sanders, 1970. (Photo by Michael Ochs Archive/Getty Images)

Comedians Norm MacDonald and Darrell Hammond are among the actors that KFC has hired to play Colonel Sanders in new TV ads. The chain is planning to release a new ad with yet another actor playing the Colonel during the Superbowl this weekend.

Some customers aren't fans of the ads, but the company is just happy that people are talking about the brand again.

"They're actually talking about KFC, and you can market to love and hate — you cannot market to indifference," Yum! Brands CEO Greg Creed said in May.

2. KFC added a popular new promotion called the $5 "Fill Up" meal. Citi Research analysts say the meal has added a major boost to the chain's momentum in the US.

The meals include an entree, a drink, several sides, and a dessert — all for $5.

There are five different "Fill Up" combos featuring chicken tenders, chicken breasts, pot pie, and other options.

"We believe the positive sales momentum is likely to continue," Citi Research analysts wrote in a research note. "Of note, $5 Fill Ups continue to resonate very well and lower gas prices remain a tailwind."

3. The chain began renovating restaurants with a new, fancier design.

RELATED: Fast food around the world

Fast food from around the world
See Gallery
KFC made 3 drastic changes -- and now the business is on fire
McDonald's Japan serves rice cheese balls! A crispy outside with a warm, gooey inside -- YUM.
McDonald's India features the McAloo wrap. Aloo is a type of potato curry and McDonald's put its own spin on it by wrapping a flour tortilla around an aloo patty garnished with lettuce, onions, vegetables, and sauce.
Pizza Hut Russia serves an Oktoberfest seasonal pizza with Bavarian sausage, pepperoni, vegetables, sauce, and mustard. You like?
At Burger King Argentina you can order a Churrasquito. It's grilled over hot coals and served with cheese, lettuce, tomato, and mayo.
At select Wendy's locations in Australia, you can order a Brekky dog -- a breakfast style hot dog. GOOD MORNING to that!
Taco Bell Japan serves a shrimp and avocado burrito. This exclusive item has only been on the menu since April 2015!
Known as 'Maccas' in New Zealand, McDonald's menu there includes 3 savory pies. This one is the Mince 'N' Cheese pie stuffed with ground beef and cheese. 
At Pizza Hut in Saudi Arabia you can order a seafood pizza, including shrimp, calamari, crab, and vegetables on a thin crust.
McDonald's serves porridge in Thailand! 
You can order chili cheese nuggets from Burger King in Hungary. Bits of jalapeño peppers and a spicy kick.

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