The colonel, most likely, would lose his mind over the recent news that KFC in Britain is experimenting with a vegetarian version of the founder’s famous fried chicken. You know, the top-secret Original Recipe chicken, the one with 11 herbs and spices that (reportedly) only two executives have access to at any one time.
As part of a countrywide campaign to slim down, KFC UK is heeding the new guidelines issued by Public Health England, which recommends that British adults consume only 400 calories at breakfast and 600 apiece at lunch and dinner. KFC UK told the Daily Mirror, the British tabloid, that it plans to remove 20 percent of the calories “per serving” — which, remember, may be much smaller than your idea of a serving — by 2025. That’s a year later than PHE’s suggested deadline.
The menu revamp will apparently include a veggie interpretation of Col. Harland Sanders’s chicken, Victoria Robertson, the head of food innovation for KFC UK and Ireland, told the Mirror. The faux-meat bird is expected to roll out later this year.
“We know any new menu and recipe changes will have to be just as tasty as today,” Robertson told the Mirror. “It’s a tricky challenge, because our fans absolutely love our Original Recipe chicken, and we won’t be changing the Colonel’s secret recipe of 11 herbs and spices.”
The KFC experiment with faux fried chicken may be an earnest attempt to shrink the British waistline, but it also aligns with meatless items recently added to menus at McDonald’s and White Castle, two prime competitors in the fast-food category. Late last year, Mickey D’s introduced the soybean-based McVegan burger to restaurants in Sweden and Finland, and in April, the White Castle chain rolled out a surprisingly meaty slider featuring a plant-based patty from Impossible Foods.
As you might have guessed, these chains are adapting their menus in a simple attempt to attract millennials, the generation that has largely turned up its nose at traditional fast food companies.
There’s no word on whether the KFC faux fried chicken, once its recipe is perfected and rolled out in Britain, will jump the pond to the United States. KFC USA did not immediately return a call for comment. (For what it’s worth, a McDonald’s spokeswoman said the McVegan is still only available in Finland and Sweden. She had no information to share on a possible U.S. introduction.)
It’s not hard to imagine what the colonel would think of this fake chicken business. A perfectionist prone to colorful outbursts of profanity, Sanders was not fond of changes to his beloved chicken. In his autobiography, “Dave’s Way,” Wendy’s founder Dave Thomas shared an anecdote about the colonel, his longtime friend and business mentor. (Thomas, you might recall, made his bones as a KFC franchisee before starting the burger chain.)
The colonel had recently sold his chain, and the new management had developed an easier method for draining the fried chicken, Thomas wrote. Sanders hated the new “dump” system because he said it “bruised the chicken.” Thomas continued:
As I was getting set for the grand opening of my fifth store, I got a frantic call from the Colonel. “I hear you’re using that new system to drain my chicken,” he said in an angry voice. I explained how it saved time and affected neither the look nor the taste.
“Let me tell you something, boy,” the Colonel declared. “If you dump my chicken, you are slapping the Colonel right in the face.” I tried to reason with him, but he said he’d never talk to me again.
The colonel and Thomas ran across each other once or twice before Sanders died in 1980, but their relationship, Thomas wrote, “was history.”