Wednesday, June 9, 2010

The Worst KFC Store in the Galaxy, and the Next One Over

I have discovered the secret of the universe and am preparing an entry to disclose it to you.  But this is more important.

I have the superseding moral duty to call to your attention the Worst KFC Store Ever before another hungry citizen is subjected to its awfulness.  It is located in Frisco, Texas, at 7560 Preston Road, just north of the Rolater/Stonebrook intersection, hard by Kroger's and a Sonic.  The following event, which is not even the most infuriating consumer experience that I have suffered at this appalling establishment, took place today.
When the Memsahib is at a professional conference out of town I have implied permission to return to my pre-Memsahib habits (culinary only).  I had started work at 4:30 that morning and had left work early to run a couple of errands, which concluded a few minutes before 5:00 this afternoon.  I decided to have some Kentucky Fried Chicken and a styrofoam bucket of that sweet cole slaw and perhaps a serving of mashed potatoes made from the Colonel's secret recipe consisting entirely of nonorganic reconstituted potato by-products rendered palatable by watery gravy whose salt content is calibrated to match that of the Colonel's Original Recipe 11 Secret Herbs and Spices, five or six of which are probably some isotope of sodium chloride.  

I had some doubts that I would be successful in this quest.  I had not had good success in purchasing fried chicken products at this particular KFC, the only one convenient to my path home, and, oddly, the only one in Frisco, a rather large municipality.  Do any of you recall the Monty Python cheese-shop sketch, where John Cleese attempts to purchase cheese at a cheese shop operated by Michael Palin, but the shop seems to have no cheese of any variety available? 

(You may view it here.)   

That's the way I felt as I entered the Frisco KFC -- but I always think, no, surely this time they will be able to complete a consumer fried-chicken transaction.   So I enter, step right up to the counter, and place my usual order -- the eight piece dinner, Original Recipe, with the aforementioned slaw and spuds as the sides.  Two each of breast, wing, drumstick, and thigh.  About eighteen bucks.  The pleasant young woman who took my order called a special offer to my attention -- ten legs and thighs and three sides and a tank-car sized drink for only fifteen bucks, the difference being accounted for by KFC's desire to sell the less desirable dark pieces, since the larger white-meat breasts are preferred by customers who purchase by the piece.  (You just know that some people order breasts instead of thighs claiming they're less fatty, which is like justifying petting a water moccasin instead of a panther because it's smaller.)  In this way, KFC may maintain a more favorable statistical balance in their inventory of the various salable parts of the chicken which they assemble into the white-and-dark dinner buckets and the like.   Ah, but what KFC Corporate does not know is that I actually prefer dark meat, so the all-legs-and-thighs promotion + extra side + bladder-busting drink was a steal for me -- I'd have paid more than fifteen bucks for it.   Ha.

But I had been deceived by this particular KFC before.  On many occasions.

I thought the auspices were favorable, however.  Bear in mind -- I looked at my watch -- it was 4:55 p.m.  What most fast-food franchises would refer to as "the beginning of the dinner hour," or what Bronco's Hamburgers, where I used to work in Bellevue, Nebraska, would have called "rush."   You know, when customers were expected.  To come in to the store.  And order Kentucky Fried Chicken.

And it was the beginning of that time.  There was no rush at that time.  No uncontrollable demand for fried chicken that would push those pools of hot grease up to and beyond their chicken-frying limits, causing delays in completing fried-chicken sales.  No -- all signs for fried-chicken availability were positive.  There were a handful of customers in the store, some of whom were eating fried chicken (a very hopeful sign right there), some of whom were attempting to decipher the menu choices, and some of whom appeared to be plotting meth deals.  But I was the only one in line to order.  Cars were beginning to enter the lot, and some people had come in behind me.  But I was there,standing at the counter at that first blush of fried-chicken-purveying commercial activity.

Still, I found it necessary to ask the nice young woman:  "Do you have dark Original Recipe chicken ready to go?"

"Oh, yes," she said, betraying no impression that my question was in any way unusual.

"Sold," I said.

And she left to busy herself assembling my order.

After a minute, she returned with a portly young man with irregular facial hair.  His shirt said "assistant manager."  They seemed rather sad.  "I'm sorry," the young woman said.  "We  have no dark Original." 

"None?" I asked.  I was prepared to compromise, as one must at this shop.

The young man spoke.  "One piece."

Now consider that in addition to it being the beginning of the dinner hour, the store was promoting an all-dark chicken special calling for the provision of multiple pieces of dark-meat fried chicken in a store that holds itself out as selling almost exclusively fried chicken, of which Original Recipe is the most popular, as it is the  recipe that has brought millions of people to KFCs in preference to other fast-food joints for decades.

I had already filled this enormous vat -- I mean, it wasn't a cup, it was almost a barrel, with a handle and everything -- with my gallon or so of free drink.  And I had been deucedly clever about it; I got the Hawaiian Punch with no ice, which I could take home and slurp out of for days without worrying about loss of fizz or dilution by melted ice.

"How long?" I asked.

"Eighteen minutes," the irregularly-haired assistant manager said.

In other words, they didn't even have any Original Recipe thighs or drumsticks in process.  Some poor jamoke was probably back there frantically starting to shovel half-breaded chicken parts into the deep-fat fryer.

And so I'm standing there like an idiot with this bucket of lukewarm Hawaiian Punch and this irregularly-haired portly kid telling me that, at 5 PM on this fine, fine late-Spring afternoon of June 9, Year of Our Lord 2010, in the only KFC store in a city of over 100,000 souls, in a part of the country that is not known for its insistence on a healthy diet, located on the most heavily trafficked road in that city, at one of its most heavily-trafficked intersections, with excellent access from several directions, he had to offer for sale to the public precisely one (1) piece of Original Recipe Kentucky Fried Chicken (dark), among the very most frequently-ordered items of franchised fast food in the universe.

I actually smiled.  I made a show of looking at the baffling menu display, as though there were some relief to be had up there.  Finally, realizing that this particular Frisco/Preston Road KFC had once again failed to possess conventional fried chicken to vend to actual customers prepared to pay actual cash money therefor during the actual dinner hour, I asked for my money back.  I went home and ordered Domino's, but it tasted nothing like an Original thigh.

Here's the problem:  Original Recipe Dark Meat Kentucky Fried Chicken is really yummy.  But it is available only at KFC stores.  If you want it, you have to go there.  This particular store is notorious throughout Collin County, Texas, and, if I have my way, worldwide, as almost never having on hand what one wants to order: 

     --  The store is apparently unmanaged.  I doubt an adult has set foot in any food-related area in that store in years.

     --  The employee turnover there is so rapid you'd think the place is staffed solely by Obama appointees.

     --  During prime food-purchasing intervals, it consistently fails to have popular food items prepared for purchase.

     --  While customers cluster in increasing numbers around the counter, waiting for orders placed many minutes earlier, or when, like me, they finally give up the attempt to purchase chicken products and ask for their money back, they are never offered consolation certificates for their trouble (perhaps because there is no consolation in returning to this dump on yet another futile quest to acquire chicken).

     --  The destruction of the ozone layer by hydrocarbons exhausted into the atmosphere from the tailpipes of vehicles waiting in line at the drive-through has single-handedly reduced the population of harp seals -- those cute little white ones with the big trusting eyes -- by seventeen percent in the last year.

At a social gathering recently I casually mentioned that I'd had to get my blood pressure medicine adjusted after my last couple of trips to this God-forsaken family restaurant, and I was instantly mobbed by other Frisco citizens who had been similarly crushed by the defeat of their expectations for the ambrosial KFC product.

Anyone know anyone in QA/QC at KFC (owned by Yum! Brands, Inc.)?  Please send them this article and beg them to send the chairman in to attempt to purchase some chicken. 

And then you see these documentaries on how inhumanely mass-produced chickens are treated.

At least they get fed.

*     *     *
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  1. Oh that's the saddest story I've read in a long time. I'm a KFC original recipe dark meat fan myself and now it's too late to go hunt some down.
    I hope they let you keep the Hawaiin Punch for free. If it's really a bucketful you could make some pretty good popsicles too.

  2. Root, funny and sad. I like dark meat too. Loved the rererence to the cheese shop sketch.

  3. This blog is a waste of cyberspace. Someone please spare us all and remove it.

  4. Finally, someone is paying attention.

  5. This diatribe made me laugh out loud on several occasions. I guess I won't be taking the hoodlums there for dinner tonight. Your fast food posts are my favorite, I do believe...BK, KFC...I can't wait for something on TB or McD.

  6. normally, my personality would love this little bit of drama, but when it comes to my work i have a different outlook.
    not only did i give you a refund, this portly irregular haired manager offered you a full free family meal the next time you wanted to come in.
    i invite all your readers in to my restaurant to see how our customer service actually compares to your... dissertation. just ask for a manager or for me, jason, personally. i will get you a free drink and hook you up with a great deal on our chicken.

  7. Funny stuff.

    Try Churches. They actually have fried chicken.

  8. I call attention to Anonymous's post, the one just before last, where apparently an employee of this establishment has posted a rebuttal.

    Well, folks . . . he is making reference to someone else entirely, completely proving my point. Someone else must have had exactly the same experience as I did that evening.

    I swear on my empty Domino's box that I was not offered a thing except to take my tank of tepid Hawaiian Punch with me. (I had neither the heart nor the thirst.) The young gentleman counted out my money, said he was sorry, and offered nothing further.

    But I do agree with his final point -- KFC does make a damned fine product, which is why my story is so tragic. I wish I had some right now.

  9. And by the way -- I have had similar experiences at this store on approximately a half-dozen occasions, and on no previous visit was I offered any consideration for my lengthy wait for the completed dorder, the necessity for a changed order owing to lack of chicken, or its complete failure of delivery.

    Sorry, Jason -- in my experience problems like your store has are invariably the result of poor senior management and district management, not guys like you. Both you and the counter girl were very nice, even remorseful.

  10. Dude, let me start off by first saying, WOW. I can not believe you wrote this novel bitching about an experience that is bound to happen at any fast food restaurant. You're not pulling one over on KFC just because you would pay more than fifteen bucks for some chicken. Do you realize how much money they're making off of you already? You're laughing at this corporation who is making money off you idiots who have "half a dozen" terrible experiences but still come back again and again for more!

    And meth deals? That KFC is in the middle of Frisco. Don't act like it's some ghetto store off Harry Hines. Frisco is a nice city, especially the area surrounding that KFC.

    Also, where are you getting your facts? That KFC does not have a high turnover rate. How would you even know that? That exact KFC you are complaining about is a high-volume store that is one of the highest rated in their DFW area. It always seems to be packed with customers, too, at least when I have gone. They must be doing something right.

    You should have just gone back to your original order anyway: your 8 fistfuls of chicken-side of potatoes-big bucket of cole slaw meal for one.

  11. Mal, thanks for checking in. Always appreciate hearing the other side. I'm delighted if you have had uniformly positive experiences at the Frisco store.

    My experience is that it is not a reliable source of its own signature product. Over the past couple years, on a signnificant percentage of my visits it has not had chicken ready to sell and items had to be substituted, or the wait for product or service was so long that I left. (I believe this was the only visit where I asked for a refund -- I had placed the order because I was told, in response to my direct question based on past disappointments, that they did indeed have product to sell -- a premature representation, as it turned out.)

    I don't come in at odd hours, and I can't remember the store ever being crowded. In fact, I have to doubt that this is an unusually high-volume store, at least not one that takes advantage of its local monopoly. There is rarely a line, and never more than one person working the counter, even during dinner hour. The store succeeds, if at all, solely by default -- it is the only KFC in a city of over 100,000, on the city's arterial thoroughfare, and the product is intrinsically good. It should be packed all the time.

    As for turnover: Yeah, I don't have access to personnel records, and I was reaching for a cheap Obama gag, but I don't recall ever having the same counter person twice. On a significant number of visits I'm served by a trainee who is getting direction from a senior person.

    Never had these problems at any other KFC in any other city, but I have them at that store repeatedly. And my unscientific poll of local KFC-lovers suggests that my experience is not unique. Problems of this magnitude are almost never entirely local -- someone is asleep at the switch up the chain at Yum! Brands.

    Thanks again for your post.

  12. My husband works in a service industry where "slow, poor service" is actually refered to as "A KFC". I think it's universal. The KFC a few blocks from my house, also at a VERY heavy traveled intersection, is quite seldom out of chicken (breast pieces, extra crispy) at the dinner hour!

  13. I report on a later visit, with similar doleful results, here: