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Published March 6th 2018

KFC Ran Out of Chicken, But Managed to Turn the Conversation Around

The Brandwatch React team measure responses to the moment KFC ran out of chicken in the UK and how their "FCK" ad response won fans back.

When KFC ran out of chicken in the UK recently, the reaction was unforgiving in its volume and its hilarity at the expense of the famous chain.

The Brandwatch React team gathered mentions surrounding the the lack of chicken to see how the apparent “crisis” would be perceived by KFC fans and how a response from them might go down.

The initial reaction when KFC ran out of chicken

We found people complaining about the KFC chicken crisis as early as Valentines Day.

The February 15 also saw a handful of complaints, but this initial reaction to the lack of chicken was then stretched and escalated over several days as people continued to complain and laugh about how chicken was still unavailable.

The full scale realization of the problem didn’t peak until February 21, the very pinnacle of the social media storm. It’ll be in KFC community manager’s anniversary books for years to come.


A bar chart shows day-by-day mentions of when KFC ran out of chicken. They peak on the 21st of February.

​The story was hitting full speed on Reddit, with 10,000 upvotes on a post about this highly dramatic news segment in which it is reported that police are asking people to stop calling to report the missing chicken.


At this point, KFC’s UK closures were being discussed around the world.

A map of the world shows countries lighting up with mentions of KFC running out of chicken. UK and US are particularly strongly colored.

KFC responds with a zinger

Mentions dropped off significantly on the February 22, indicating that the publicity surrounding the chicken shortage was dropping, but there was another bump on Friday 23rd February.

The reason? KFC responded with an amusing newspaper ad that apologized for the problems.

The ad, created by Mother, acknowledged the humor around the situation but also provided a sincere apology and explained that work was being done to remedy the problems.

This was the first time that positive-categorized mentions saw spikes amid the largely negative chicken shortage conversation.

Positive and negative mentions of KFC running out of chicken are mapped on a line graph.

As we’ve found before, the wrong response to a negative story circulating about your brand can go terribly wrong.

Instead of trying to sweep issues under the carpet, the problems were considered, acknowledged and taken responsibility for in the form of a statement that was invested in (not just hurriedly tweeted). This prolonged publicity surrounding the event, but it did so in a way that reflected them much better.

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