When I arrived at the KFC at 11:15 a.m., I expected maybe a little more the usual lunch rush — not the line that wound around the building or the backup of traffic that stretched a mile up the highway. I also didn’t expect the green-and-white stripes that replaced the traditional red-and-white color scheme of America’s favorite fried chicken restaurant.
Everyone there had turned out to try the new Beyond Fried Chicken from KFC, a plant-based alternative to real chicken. The product was created through a partnership with Beyond Meat. KFC used the Smyrna, Georgia location as a test to gauge customer interest in the product and determine whether Beyond Fried Chicken might be a candidate for expanded distribution. After all, no one likes fried chicken like southerners.
“If you want a tasty, viable alternative to real meat that is almost-but-not-quite-there, check out the Beyond Fried Chicken.”
I parked at a nearby lot and made my way to the KFC, where I had to search for the end of the line. So many people had gathered that the line had looped around on itself in a sort of chicken-fueled ouroboros. While the customer demographic definitely skewed toward the younger generation, people from all walks of life turned out to try the food. A couple that ran a local, plant-based pizzeria chatted with everyone in line and rocked matching hats and tee-shirts to represent their restaurant. An elderly couple smiled at those around them. Even a few people wearing PETA shirts were there.
The sign outside the restaurant read, “A Kentucky Fried Miracle,” and the scent of fresh food made my mouth water. And finally, after two and a half hours in line, I had the chance to order. By then the location had limited orders to a single six-piece combo per person. Supply had begun to run low within hours of the restaurant opening and some of those in line worried they might not get to try the food we had all waited for.
I ordered a six-piece combo with a side and drink for a total of $6.88. Compared to the normal cost of a menu item at KFC (and the cost of Beyond Meat products in general), this felt like a steal. Excited and ready for lunch, I sat down and tore open the box to take my first bite.
The Beyond Fried Chicken is tasty, with a sort of reminiscent of school cafeteria chicken nuggets. The Beyond nuggets were just a tad dry and a bit light on seasoning given KFC’s usual fare, but they blow the competition out of the water. The Beyond Fried Chicken nuggets had the taste of texture of real chicken. Held against competing vegetarian products like the Morningstar Farms chicken nuggets, where the taste is right but the texture is just a bit lacking, there’s no competition: Beyond Fried Chicken wins out.
That said, Beyond Fried Chicken isn’t without faults. While they tasted great, the nuggets lacked the oomph I expected them to have. It felt like they had only 7 of the 11 herbs and spices KFC is known for. In a world where the Impossible Whopper exists, Beyond Fried Chicken has room for improvements in terms of texture and taste (I was told the sauce was the best part, but there was none left when I ordered). If you want a tasty, viable alternative to real meat that is almost-but-not-quite-there, check out the Beyond Fried Chicken.
Given the outpouring of support and the rate at which the product sold out today, I have no doubt KFC will bring it to more stores across the nation.
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