🍟 12/18/2023 – KFC Japan’s Christmas Eve Tradition


Today, KFC in Japan will sell 5-10x more chicken than any day of the year.

Millions of Japanese citizens will line up for their bucket of Christmas Eve fried chicken.

Here’s the story behind this annual tradition:

KFC opened its first Japanese location in the small city of Nagoya in 1970.

This was one year BEFORE McDonald’s opened their first location in Tokyo!

Part of KFC’s appeal in Japan was the fact that the Colonel’s secret recipe was similar to a traditional Japanese dish called Karaage.

After a few years in business, KFC franchisees realized they needed to find a creative way to stand out in the fast-growing franchise market.

So, they set their sights on Christmas –

There are a number of theories about why KFC began marketing itself as a Christmas meal in Japan.

One is that a KFC Manager falsely marketed fried chicken as a traditional American Christmas food to boost sales.

Another theory is that westerners living in Japan needed a Turkey alternative when the full-sized birds didn’t fit in Japanese ovens.

But the “official” story is that a KFC manager, Takeshi Okawara, attended a party dressed as Santa and noticed how much the children loved it.

No matter where the idea came from, it inspired a wildly successful marketing campaign.

Beginning in 1974, KFC Japan began running a “Kentucky Christmas” ad campaign.

The commercials framed the KFC “Party Barrel” as something to be shared with the whole family on Christmas.

There’s a reason for this tactic.

Since <1% of Japanese identify as Christian, Christmas is a secular holiday for most of the country. This also means there’s no established Christmas traditions.

So, the ad campaign created a new one — one that puts KFC chicken at the center.

And it worked.

In just 11 years, the number of KFC locations in Japan grew to over 300, earning ~$200M a year.

During the same period, Japan’s entire fast food industry grew  by over 600%.

People will place their Christmas Party Barrel pre-orders months in advance. Then, on Christmas eve, they may wait in line for hours to pick it up. This marketing campaign is so successful that 5-10x more KFC chicken is sold on 12/24 than any other day of the year.


Mr. Pickle’s Plots Sandwich Shop Expansion Following Brand Revamp

Longtime Carl’s Jr. franchisee Michael Nelson said the world doesn’t need another sandwich concept, “but the world needs Mr. Pickle’s.”

Nelson, who with partners operates 54 Carl’s Jr. locations in California and other western states, bought Mr. Pickle’s Sandwich Shop from founders Frank and Michele Fagundes in late 2020 and is now working to take the Northern California favorite to new markets and significantly add to its current unit count of 64.

“I’m a sandwich guy,” said Nelson, a Carl’s Jr. operator for more than 30 years who also developed Subway restaurants in Arizona, taking that brand from 270 to more than 450 locations in the state. After “deep dive” due diligence on the likes of Jersey Mike’s, Jimmy John’s, Which Wich and others as a prospective franchisee, he decided to turn his attention to brand ownership when he learned the founders of Mr. Pickle’s were looking to retire after nearly 30 years.

Atomic Wings Adds Drive-Thru Prototype

When Zak Omar took over Atomic Wings in 2016, he brought with him years of experience as a quick-service restaurant operator with knowledge of the advantages a drive-thru can bring.

Now that Omar approved a drive-thru prototype at Atomic Wings, the expectation, he said, is to separate the brand from the rest of the chicken wing category.

“We’re going to be first to market with it and we feel it’s going to provide a tremendous advantage for us and help push the brand forward,” Omar said. “We feel that wings, tenders and boneless wings travel really well and we can do that in a very fast way that will make it easy for customers to just come through our drive-thrus.”

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