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 - Menzies Response

How Distribution Problems Leave A Bad Taste In The Mouth

It was the crisis that ruffled feathers around Britain. Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC), that popular purveyor of processed poultry, embarrassingly ran out of chicken a few weeks ago. Fans of the fast-food outlet were horrified. Others were in hysterics. And KFC’s management were left red-faced at the ‘fowl’ up.

So what caused this chicken crisis? It soon emerged that KFC were using a new distribution partner who were, to coin a phrase, experiencing a few ‘teething problems’. KFC were forced to close over half of their nine hundred UK restaurants, whilst others could only offer a reduced menu.

The chicken drought lasted for a few days, and many restaurants remained closed over the busy weekend period – thus costing KFC an awful lot of money. The firm also lost the goodwill of many loyal customers. Some chicken-addicts were so outraged that they actually called the police!

The embarrassing problems didn’t end there either. Two weeks later KFC customers suffered another indignity when further distribution problems caused a temporary shortage of gravy – an essential accompaniment to any fried chicken dish. That’s a bit like Harry Ramsden’s running out of chips.

KFC’s public relations team went into full scramble mode to deal with the fallout.

They issued a humorous press release, which laughed about chickens crossing the road but dodging their restaurants. They also published a hilarious press advertisement showing an empty bucket of chicken with the company’s famous acronym rearranged as ‘FCK’. By poking fun at themselves they softened the blow but the damage had largely been done.

The moral of the story, of course, is that if something can go wrong it inevitably will.

What was striking in this case, however, was that something so basic had gone wrong for such a high profile brand. It’s bad enough for SMEs to be caught out by distribution problems. Imagine how humiliating it was for KFC to be running around like, ahem, headless chickens.

The problems arose because KFC had decided to jettison their old distributor – a leading logistical and supply chain specialist – in favour of a new company that offered to fulfil the contract for less. The decision obviously came back to bite them. When it comes to chickens (or anything else for that matter) cheap and cheerful is rarely the best option. Even the GMB union had warned that the move was a mistake.

Although KFC appointed their new distributor, in addition to a new software company, because they had a reputation for “innovation in logistics”, the lesson here is that there’s no substitute for experience. The pair might have blamed “operational” and “administrative” issues but these were hollow excuses. The bottom line is that the distributor mucked up the delivery schedules and failed to get essential products where they needed to be on time.

KFC’s experience highlights that it’s vital to choose an experienced distributor with a proven track record – ideally in your sector or similar. Keeping costs down is important, of course, but if your chosen partner fails to fulfil their part of the bargain then you could lose more than just a few orders. Your good reputation is on the line too.

Many businesses choose Menzies Response because of our large network and the experienced people we have on-board.

We also have a huge distribution fleet, multiple depot locations, and buying power with the largest logistics companies in the UK. We also give customers a true 24-hour service, control costs, and can integrate with your business systems to automate communications and processes.

When it comes to distribution, it’s all about getting what you need, where you need it, and when you need it. Attention to detail is key, and it’s wise to choose a team with relevant experience – whether that’s delivering to consumers, the high street, partners, or events alike. The bottom line is you need a company you can rely on.