Louisville, KY – The smiling visage of Colonel Sanders has been the face of KFC (also known as Kentucky Fried Chicken) for many years. Even nearly thirty years after his death, the image of the jovial southern gentleman (Sanders himself was born in Indiana) still stands as the public face of the company he started in the midst of the great depression.
The down home feel that smiling face evokes has always served the company well. The company though, much like its fast food brethren McDonald’s and Wendy’s has used that veneer of happiness to mask its significant corporate ambitions.
The company operates hundreds of stores worldwide, and an organization that large will never be free of criticism. From wages and working conditions to environmental issues, the company has long fought off all attacks against its image and maintained that down home country feel that has served it so well for so long. Now though, they are going on the offensive.
The issue stems from an incident at a location in Atlanta, where a customer decided to bring his own food rather than eat the same as his family. As is the case with most food establishments, KFC has regulations barring outside food in any of their restaurants. A confrontation ensued and finally the police were called to settle the dispute. The customer is now suing the company claiming his civil rights were violated. The food he was eating? Chicken fried steak.
Long a southern delicacy, Chicken fried steak is a piece of tenderized steak coated in flour and fired. That recipe is exactly what the company is protesting.
In a statement on their website, the company said in part “...we would like to call for a ban on all food products falsely calling themselves chicken. It is our assertion that all foods be properly labelled to identify their true contents.”
So far, the issue has been in form of protest, though the company is not ruling out the possibility of litigation. When asked for a comment, KFC officials declined our request. Local restaurant owners were a little more interested in speaking.
“We’ve been serving chicken fried steak since we opened and we’re not going to stop now,” Daryl Hamble, owner of Hamble’s Diner in Lousiville. “It’s a staple dish here and will be here as long as I am.”
The story is the same at Southern Treats, another local restaurant. “We’re not going to be pushed around by these big corporations. They can protest, they can sue if they want. They aren’t going to stop us from running our business our way,” said owner Dwayne Heck. When asked about a potential compromise, such as changing the name, he was equally defiant. “Makes no sense to me. Sure there’s no chicken in the dish, but you could make the same argument about them. We’re not changing anything.”
In this game of chicken, no one is flinching yet.