Picture: MICHAEL ETTERSHANK
Picture: MICHAEL ETTERSHANK

London/Los Angeles — Yum Brands’ KFC outlets in the UK are serving limited menus at reopened shops after a chicken supply snafu with its new delivery firm, but now are suffering a gravy shortage.

The crisis in the market that accounted for roughly 3% of Yum’s 2017 global system sales comes as a business turnaround at the fried chicken chain is taking hold.

KFC, which has 900 outlets in the UK and Ireland, switched its supplier contract from Bidvest Logistics to DHL on February 14. Shortly after, KFC closed hundreds of outlets in the region due to "teething" problems at DHL.

A Yum spokesperson said on Wednesday that 97% of the region’s KFC restaurants were open, but were now experiencing gravy supply disruptions. The spokesperson did not immediately comment on the financial effect and other aspects of the closures.

"Due to the ongoing distribution challenges DHL is experiencing, some restaurants are continuing to serve a reduced menu," a spokesperson said. "We’re working as hard as we can to get this sorted out. We know that our gravy is a big favourite."

The chain has apologised to customers, running a newspaper ad showing a photo of a KFC chicken bucket with the logo letters rearranged to read "FCK". The accompanying text reads: "We’re sorry. A chicken restaurant without any chicken. It’s not ideal … Thank you for bearing with us." It has invited Twitter users in the UK and Ireland to click on #WheresMyChicken to find their nearest open KFC.

The police in Whitefield, Manchester, tweeted: "For those who contacted the Police about KFC being out of chicken … please stop. Their website says the Prestwich store is now open if you want to follow the four police cars through the drive-thru." Reuters was not immediately able to confirm whether customers were indeed contacting local police.

Elsewhere, thousands of Twitter users shared a fake video of two men in full KFC uniforms buying chicken at an Asda supermarket. In the video, when a man off-camera questions the pretend workers about the purchases, one responded: "Chicken is chicken, you know … You’re still getting KFC chicken at the end of the day."

DHL and the GMB union, which publicly said it had warned KFC that a similar switch to DHL disrupted business at the Burger King hamburger chain, did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Shares in Yum were up 3% at $82.52 in midday trading.

Reuters