Delivery problems force temporary closure of hundreds of KFC UK outlets

On Monday 19 February, fried-chicken chain KFC was forced to close more than half its 900 restaurants in the UK due to supply chain problems with fresh chicken deliveries. DHL, who only recently took over the delivery contract for KFC, described the problems as “operational issues”, while KFC called them “teething problems”.

Until recently, South African-owned distribution group Bidvest had handled KFC’s chicken deliveries. DHL won the contract in November 2017 as part of a three-way partnership with specialist foodservice logistics provider Quick Service Logistics (QSL). QSL is handling demand planning and stock management, with dedicated IT solutions, as well as managing operational purchasing for KFC and accounting for its operations. The delivery disruption occurred less than a week into the new operation. When the partnership was announced, DHL claimed it intended to “re-write the rule book” and “set a new industry benchmark by delivering outstanding service to all KFC’s restaurants and its consumers”.

KFC UK apologised to customers in a light-hearted tweet, saying “The chicken crossed the road, just not to our restaurants…” The company also explained that, since it was not prepared to compromise on quality, some restaurants were closed and others were operating a limited menu or shortened hours. In an effort to appease disappointed consumers, KFC also set up a web page to help them locate their nearest outlet that was still open.

The GMB union, which has almost 639,000 members working in every part of the UK economy, described the cause of the chicken shortage as a “bird-brained decision” to award the contract to DHL in order to save money. According to GMB, Bidvest had a network of distribution centres across the UK whereas DHL is now trying to do the job with just one. In a press release, GMB claimed that “KFC’s penny-pinching decision has not only cost 255 jobs, but leaves hundreds of workers at closed KFC restaurants not getting paid”.

According to a KFC spokesman, workers in the closed outlets were being encouraged to take holiday but would not be forced to do so. Otherwise, most staff employed in KFC-owned restaurants would be paid as normal. Franchisees, which account for 80% of KFC’s outlets, were free to make their own decision but would be encouraged to adopt the same policy, he added.