As 20 and 30 year olds look more towards what is called ‘fast-casual’ restaurants such as Chipotle Mexican Grill and Panera Bread, the fast food industry faces the challenge of keeping up.
The latest farewell comes from KFC as they move forward without the face of Col. Sanders. The chain is not only tossing out the bones, but they will be experimenting with a more ‘upmarket’ restaurant called “KFC eleven”, based off the 11 herbs and spices from the original recipe. These new restaurants will not have Col. Sanders on the packaging but instead lean more towards the 'fast casual' style establishment, serving only the boneless chicken along with sandwiches, salads and rice bowls, a big step away from the fried chicken the chain is known for.
KFC, however, is not the only fast food chain to change their branding and offer a difference in menu items. The Taco Bell dog has been missing for years now, Ronald McDonald is less visible these days, and Burger King said goodbye to their large head of a mascot in 2011 (while funny, many consumers also found him creepy). These restaurants have also added 'healthier' menu items and McDonald's kindly put the calories and nutritional information on all of their food containers.
Wendy’s, on the other hand, is not saying goodbye just yet to their red headed Wendy mascot. They just launched a logo refresh, which came with rumblings of a hidden message and speculations of what it could mean. Wendy’s said this was not done on purpose, but we have to admit, the mascot’s new ruffled collar looks a lot like the word “mom.”
So, many mascots may be on the decline, but those tied more closely to the brand will most likely stay, at least for now. It will be interesting to see how the new “KFC eleven” restaurants and other fast food marketing departments do in the ‘fast-casual’ market. This is a great example of how markets change and reiterates the importance of continued market research.