KFC East Africa – Great Taste for More People

KFC East Africa celebrates the 10th anniversary of the opening of its first restaurant in Kenya – a decade of growth that is set to continue.

In March 2021 KFC, which operates in Kenya through franchisee Kuku Foods East Africa, opened its first branch this year in Mombasa and have since opened another new branch in Thika town, raising its national branch count to 25 – a significant milestone for a successful business that started up in 2011.

“The new branch came barely a few months after Kuku Foods East Africa received a new Chief Executive Officer, Jacques Theunissen. Having previously worked as the Chief Operating Officer at KFC in East Africa, he has ample experience both of the company and the region.

He summarises the company’s growth: “We opened our first restaurant in East Africa in Kenya exactly 10 years ago. Since then, 37 more KFC restaurants have been opened in Kenya, Uganda as well as Rwanda, which we entered only last year, just before the Covid-19 pandemic started.”

Apart from walk-in patrons, KFC is also reaping revenue benefits from its delivery services, a pattern that is happening the world over, both with takeaway chains and even fully eat-in restaurants, thanks to companies such as Jumia Food, Glovo and Uber Eats. The company has seen significant growth in food deliveries per month across the East African region.

Staying Local

Today, KFC East Africa has become one of the region’s most successful fast-food providers – no doubt partly a credit to KFC’s popularity, but also to the efforts and standards of the company itself.

During the decade of its existence, KFC East Africa has collected numerous awards issued by YUM, the franchisor, demonstrating its commitment to quality and customer service. These include the Franchisee of the Year for Africa in 2015, Delivery Operator of the Year in 2018, Operator of the Year in 2019 and Brand Builder of the year for 2020. This success could not have been achieved without the company’s solid supplier base.

Mr Theunissen says: “The supply chain is the backbone of our business and being part of a global company like YUM brands, the standards that are expected from suppliers are among the highest in the world. We do believe that supporting local suppliers is a must and I am happy to say that today we have localized over 90% of our supply chain in the countries we operate in. We have some amazing suppliers, and their audit scores rank among some of the highest in the world.”

As one of the largest buyers of chicken in the world, the company has strict controls in place to make sure that its suppliers comply with global animal welfare standards and practices regarding the treatment of chickens.

The Core Asset

An essential component of KFC’s steady growth in East Africa is the people. The company carefully selects its staff and trains them to meet the chain’s standards, supporting staff with a passion for innovation and entrepreneurial thinking, as well as for customer service. “The amazing people that work for our company are the foundation that we build the future on,” affirms Mr Theunissen.

“We have very stringent recruitment processes in place, and we take it so seriously that a member of the leadership team, including myself, has to interview each cook or cashier personally before they finally get appointed into their position. In our company, we believe in creating careers for people, and each and every manager up to the Operations Manager started as a team member.”

Mr Theunissen further explains that the company has an internal recruitment policy in place, and does not recruit from outside for managerial roles, in line with its responsibility to grow and develop its own people. “All managers have been promoted within the organisation. We have so many success stories of people who initially took the KFC job while they were looking for something else – 5 years later they are still with us and have moved into senior management positions.”

The company employs a full-time Senior People Capability manager whose only job is to develop talent. It has also established a Restaurant General Manager (RGM) Growth Academy two years ago, a programme to fast-track individuals with the required skill sets and leadership capabilities from team members to restaurant general managers.

“We look for a great attitude first. Our workforce is young, vibrant and full of energy. We do not discriminate on qualifications, but candidates have to be educated to at least secondary-school level. I do believe we are making a difference by developing talent and creating career paths for the youth in East Africa,” Mr Theunissen acknowledges.

Robust Position

Asked about the biggest challenges the business has faced during the ten years of its existence, Mr Theunissen reflects that for any company venturing into the African continent, scale is of the utmost importance.

“Covid-19 has obviously been one of the largest challenges in recent months. However, as a company we are agile and nimble, so we are able to adapt quickly and change course as and when needed. Luckily, we have been fostering our internal business culture for many years and this has definitely made the difference in how we withstood the difficult months. In fact, I believe that Covid-19 has made us a much better business now than we were before the pandemic.”

The pandemic has also further increased the importance of contactless channels such as Drive Thru and Deliveries, channels that the company has been using for some time.  Its customers were used to the KFC Drive-thru and Home Delivery channels when the pandemic started and trust that KFC will deliver safe quality food, reliably and in a timely manner.

And the future? Further expansion, says Mr Theunissen. “Following the opening of our new branch in Mombasa, the company is set for further growth. Since December last year, we have opened 3 new branches in Kenya and we will continue to expand in the years to come, bringing the Colonel’s world famous chicken to as many people as possible in East Africa.”

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