Thursday, January 3, 2013

I Return to the Scene of the Crime, Craving the Original

On Wednesday, June 10, 2010, I experienced one of the most astonishing catastrophes in the history of fast-food service at the Preston-Rolater KFC.  I recorded it for your benefit on the very same evening.  It remains one of the most frequently hit articles on this site.  You can find it here:

and you might want to revisit that sad tale before you read any further.

I am here to report on a second example of appalling service at this establishment that took place on Sunday, December 2, 2012.

In fairness, I must report that I have made successful chicken and side-order purchases in the months since then.  It’s always dicey – order-fillers sometimes disappear into the bowels of the store to go looking for vendable chicken to fill the order, and order-takers seem to be in a constant state of unsupervised training.  (See below.)  But in most of these visits, excruciating clarity in ordering, followed up by a stern cross-examination of the server as to the contetns of the bags when he or she finally, breathlessly, delivers them, will usually result in an order approximating the one you issued before the body starts consuming itself with hunger.

The Dallas Cowboys were on TV that evening.  One might think that the store would have prepared for this, although, when I arrived at 5:15 – that's right, prime chicken-acquiring time – the store was not crowded nor was there a line of cars with inhabitants demanding the instant vending of chicken.  There was one woman in front of me.  A few customers in the dining room, including one family with two small children.

And I must point out that KFC is currently airing commercials advertising their "Gameday Bucket" showing sports-watching consumers with multiple buckets of fried chicken on the coffe table before them -- urging the public to travel to KFC to order these large quantities of chicken to enjoy while football games of interest are on during this season of interesting football games.  And there is no metro more concentrated on the viewing on the teevee of its team than DFW.

Point:  KFC strategic planning anticipates major chicken orders before big games, especially big games of intense local interest.

Tactical planning on the ground -- a different story.

The counter lad was the latest in an unending string of the undertrained.   He was almost inaudible and had a look of concerned puzzlement on his face.  The woman in front of me, a nicely dressed, literate human, was having a terrible time getting her order across to this guy, who stared mutely at the panel of selections before him on the cash register, and a colleague had to come and reach around him to poke at the proper buttons.

Suddenly, at the edge of my vision, I saw the mother of the family group in the dining room approach the counter.  She had brought with her the entire large platter of their dinner.  She spoke to someone who went to get someone else.  The someone else was a gentleman of around 50, dressed in a way that more-or-less conveyed the impression that he was the manager of the place.  It is the only time I can ever remember seeing anything resembling a mature adult officer at this establishment.  I wondered what he had been doing before he was summoned to deal with this dissatisfied client.  Hint -- not making chicken .

The woman was shaking her head and had a look of disgust on her face.  I could not hear her precise complaint.  I don't know if the order was wrong or the food was unsatisfactory.  I only know the family had barely touched it and they were submitting it for a refund.  The manager complied and the family left, taking their drinks with them.  (I did not interpret this dining strategy as being implement just to get free drinks.)

The woman ahead of me had completed giving her order and it was my turn.  I ordered my usual eight-piece all-dark Original – four drumsticks and four thighs, with cole slaw as my side order.

That order proved troublesome for the Yum! Foods/KFC Organization.

At 5:15 p.m. on a not-so-busy Sunday before an evening Cowboy game, this KFC was out of cole slaw.

I said OK, no  problem, skip the cole slaw.

I paid for my bucket.

A few moments later, I heard some mumbling going on behind the racks that held the chicken.  It was the counter guy and a couple of chicken-making guys.  I heard the word "drumstick."  There is only one reason for the counter guy to be discussing drumsticks in clandestine tones with guys in charge of preparing them, that being that this KFC did not have any to sell.  I was so certain of this interpretation that I spoke loudly enough to be heard through the chicken racks:  "That's OK, I'll just take all thighs." 

They looked up.  I had been correct.  That's right – no Original drumsticks at this time, a time when most properly-run restaurants would be ready to sell what has got to be one of single most iconic food items it offers, the Original drumstick.

Oh, Cool Hot Centrists, if it had ended there I would not be writing this.  

After a brief wait, another guy came out with the bad news – they did not have enough Original thighs to make up my order – would I like other Original pieces?

At this point, I was shaking my head and smiling.  No, I said – just fill out the order with Crispy thighs.

("Crispy thighs" – now there's an image to kill a romantic evening.)

I don't much care for the KFC Crispy preparation.  It has a faintly medicinal bouquet. 

But I took it.  I thanked them.
When I left the woman in front of me was still standing there.
Bucket of Original Dark,
ambrosial tasty skin falling off  the delectable grease-infused meat
 -- image available online,if  not at the Preston-Rolater KFC

I wondered as I got into the car whether the order the disgruntled family had returned might possibly have had as one of its constituents some un-nibbled Original thighs.
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Twitter:  @CoolHotCenter


  1. Dude, you got to shake that chicken habit, it is messin' wif your mind. They keep jerking you over and you keep goin' back fo' mo'. Sounds like an addickshun to me. Best be tryin' some burgers or sump'n man. Or maybe Arbbees or some shit like that. Don't they have bar-b-cue in Texas?

  2. Nah, once you've had dark meat you can't go back, man. The dude is clearly hooked. He probably has a thing for the fry cook there but he can't tell his wife. Bet he gets eight pieces just so he can stay longer. It's not about the chicken, I can tell you that.

  3. Steve, you're killing me. 5 minutes out, call in your order and tell them you want the whole thing made fresh for immediate pick-up. Works like a charm here in Californ-I-yay, even with a similarly untrained staff.

  4. (1) KFC Dark Original is incomparable. A friend has urged me to abandon it for Church's. Got no kick against Church's, but they are few and far between here in NoTex, and, frankly, compared to KFC Dark Original, somewhat generic. If I want generic fried chicken, I commend Cool Hot Centrists to Chicken Express (which also has catfish!) or Golden Chick.

    (2) No ulterior motive for visiting this KFC. There are only two that I know of in my burg of over 100,000 lives -- I have the demand, they have the supply, simple as that.

    (3) I see no reason to believe that a called-in order is going to have any greater chance of success than a counter order. If they're out of chicken, it takes a lot more than five minutes to prep and deep-fry it, in the low double-digits -- I know because I have heard on more than one occasion how long it will take to do. Nope, they'd take the order, I'd show up, and they would have the same kind of post-order sad tale that they have when the order is live on premises. I'm telling you, no matter what happens at other KFCs, this one is perpetually cursed (although I have heard from food-service experts that KFC generally has a terrible reputation for customer service).

  5. Sounds to me like you got the demand but they don't got the supply. Are you sure it ain't the fry cook?