Going over Yum Brands' (YUM) disappointing third quarter report from Tuesday night makes it clear that it's not just the chicken that's boneless at KFC.
The poultry fryer is struggling -- particularly abroad where something fowl has gone foul in China. Comparable-store sales (a measure that compares the year-over-year change at the average established store) plunged 13 percent in China during the quarter.
This is a pretty big deal. There are 4,463 KFC restaurants in the world's most populous nation, and until late last year, the Chinese couldn't get enough of the Colonel's 11 secret herbs and spices. However, with a food safety scare stemming from some of the chain's suppliers and a bird flu outbreak, KFC's sales have fallen and they can't get up.
Yum Brands figured that sales would turn positive in China by the end of this year, but now it's conceding that's not in the cards.
Things were only relatively better closer to home, where comps fell 4 percent at domestic KFC locations.
KFC is the worst performing chain for Yum Brands. Pizza Hut clocked in with a 1 percent slide, while Taco Bell actually posted a 2 percent gain. For all of the buzz that KFC has generated with its boneless chicken pieces -- included the clever "I ate the bones" marketing campaign that was introduced earlier this year -- the sad truth is that the average store isn't selling as much as it used to.
Something's wrong, and it's time for Yum Brands to take a page out of the playbook that helped it breathe new life into Taco Bell last year.
%VIRTUAL-article-sponsoredlinks%The leading Mexican fast food chain was meandering -- but then came the Doritos Locos Taco. Teaming up with PepsiCo's (PEP) Frito-Lay, Taco Bell took Doritos into the food lab to devise a taco shell impregnated with nacho cheese powder.
It was a huge hit. Comps soared 12 percent during the product line's first full quarter on the market. Taco Bell added Cool Ranch to its line earlier this year, and by the time that a third Fiery line of spicy shells was added, the fast food chain had served up an amazing 600 million Locos Tacos.
I Ate the Moans
Something as simple as offering a Doritos-flavored taco shell has been enough to turn Taco Bell around. The slightly upscale Cantina Bell line also helped, but clearly, Taco Bell wouldn't be doing as well as it is now if it wasn't for a single product that has evolved and expanded since being introduced 19 months ago.
So, where are KFC's Locos Tacos?
As ambitious as the boneless chicken offering has been, it hasn't helped improve sales. KFC's latest innovation are KFC Go Cups. Priced at $2.49, these essentially repackage the chain's existing seasoned wedges and fried chicken options into cups. But if offering food that conveniently fits in cup holders was the Holy Grail of drive-thru, we would all be eating doughnuts for dinner.
KFC needs something more to make the chicken chain trendy again, and there's certainly no shame in teaming up with Frito-Lay the way that Taco Bell did. After all, Frito-Lay parent PepsiCo once owned Pizza Hut, KFC, and Taco Bell. Why do you think these are three of only a handful of major chains that still serve Pepsi?
It's easy to spin the wheel and drum up combinations. Here are a few to get you started.
Cheetos Tenders: Ground-up Cheetos are incorporated in the breading of KFC's chicken tenders.
Fritos Famous Bowls: The classic mashed potatoes, chicken, and corn bowl can get spruced up with Fritos. If that doesn't move you, how about Fritos Bar-B-Q or Chili Cheese corn chips for a crunchy kick?
Tostitos Salsa Chicken: If KFC is looking for a Cantina Bell upgrade, serving its grilled chicken smothered in Tostitos salsa is a start.
See? I didn't even have to dig into the dozens of Lay's potato chip flavors and how they could add some zesty crunch to the Doublicious sandwich, or even work Funyuns into Chicken Littles or the classic chicken pot pie.
Taco Bell's success is something that Yum Brands should be porting over to Pizza Hut and especially KFC. It seems as if things can't get much worse, so why not take a bold bet?
KFC got rid of the bones, but now, it's time to grow a spine.
Taco Bell's Cool Ranch Dorito Taco is Just the Latest 'Frankensnack'
Hey, Yum! KFC Needs to Have Its Own 'Doritos Locos Taco' Moment
It's not unusual to see Oreos appear in other snack foods. Most ice cream shops and brands offer some variety of the cookies and cream flavor. And Oreos also appear (alongside several other snacks) as an optional mix-in for the McDonald's McFlurry.
But there was something bizarre about seeing them as a topping on a doughnut, which is exactly what Krispy Kreme began offering a few weeks ago. There are two varieties of the doughnut, both of which include both Oreo cookie crumbles and a dollop of Oreo's signature filling. They're available at select locations through April 21.
Krispy Kreme hasn't posted calorie count information for the doughnuts, and frankly, we're afraid to ask.
Cookies and pastries we can understand. Cookies and pizza are a bit harder to fathom. But in 2007, Oreos teamed up with Domino's, to create what it dubbed a "dessert pizza."
Sometimes Oreos go inside other snacks. Sometimes, other snacks go inside Oreos.
That's the case with this weird variety, which replaces the classic Oreo filling with one flavored like the traditional Halloween candy. The limited-edition cookie appeared on shelves last fall for the Halloween sales season -- though it was not the first time Nabisco offered a seasonal Oreo variety. The company sold candy cane Oreos during Christmas from 2008-2010.
Yes, that makes three entries for Oreos, which deserves a lifetime achievement award for its string of roles as best supporting snack food.
Pizza and beer have always been brothers in arms, so it was only a matter of time before some adventurous brewery found a way to mash them together.
Tom and Athena Seefurth of Illinois invented this concoction in 2006 by topping a pizza crust with tomato, oregano, basil and garlic and then rinsing the "essence of pizza spices" into the brewpot. The result, Mamma Mia! Pizza Beer, does in fact taste like pizza, with the oregano flavor particularly pronounced.
You're probably not going to down several pizza beers in one sitting -- it's not what you'd call a session beer. But if your local bar happens to have a bottle, we'd recommend giving it a try.
Chicken and waffles is a traditional dish that may very well qualify as a Frankensnack in its own right. So it was only natural that Lay's would seek to imbue that unique flavor into its potato chips.
We got a chance to try these, and were greeted with a strong taste of syrup. It's not exactly a taste you expect (or particularly want) to find in a bag of chips.
The variety was introduced in a contest to pick the next flavor of Lay's chips, and it's going up against "cheesy garlic bread" and "Sriracha." The latter is a wildly popular hot sauce and early reviews are good, so we fully expect it to beat out the chicken and waffles flavor and arrive soon at a grocery store near you.
In the mood for a burger, but feel like they haven't packed enough calories into the bun?
Sometimes referred to as a "Luther Burger" -- after R&B singer Luther Vandross -- the doughnut burger is just a beef patty sandwiched between a couple of doughnuts (or, if you're watching your calories, one doughnut split in half). Unfortunately there are no national chains offering this, but a couple of local establishments have them. One doughnut shop in Orange Country, Calif. offers a cheeseburger doughnut alongside other weird menu items like pizza doughnuts and sushi doughnuts. And the Gateway Grizzlies, an Illinois minor league baseball team, offer a bacon cheeseburger on a split Krispy Kreme doughnut, earning them the title of "baseball's best burger" from Sports Illustrated.
And if there are no restaurants or doughnut shops near you offering a version of this beast of a burger, don't despair: You can make one yourself -- Paula Deen has a recipe, of course.
Pizza Hut first recognized that the crust could be more than a handle when it introduced the Stuffed Crust Pizza in the 1990s. That wasn't exactly a Frankensnack -- they were just putting cheese in a part of the pizza that had previously been cheese-free.
But innovation doesn't sleep, and last year the pizza chain took the crust to a whole new level, introducing the Crown Crust Carnival pizza to its Pizza Hut Middle East stores. One featured a crust that incorporated chicken strips, while the other had mini-cheeseburgers circling the pie.
The Huffington Post also points out that Pizza Hut UK previously offered a hot dog stuffed crust. Clearly, America has fallen behind the rest of the world when it comes to crust innovation.
Most Frankensnacks are essentially novelty foods, released on a limited-time basis in hopes of getting some curious diners who want something adventurous. Typically, they don't turn into best-selling menu items.
But the Doritos Locos Taco is the exception: The original nacho cheese flavor sold 100 million tacos in its first 10 weeks, and now accounts for a quarter of all Taco Bell taco sales.
So of course Taco Bell is releasing a second such taco featuring the second-most popular Doritos flavor, Cool Ranch.