CHICAGO -- Krispy Krunchy Chicken has been a convenience-store success story, quietly growing its quick-service-restaurant base in c-stores across the country since 1989. But it looks like Krispy Krunchy is spreading its wings beyond the c-store segment—at least in terms of its reputation.
In a recent feature, Thrillist.com told its readers, “You probably haven’t heard of America’s best fried chicken chain,” and described Krispy Krunchy Chicken (KKC) as “America’s best-kept fast-food secret.”
Writer Ryan Joseph called out Krispy Krunchy’s distinctive flavor profile as the characteristic that sets its chicken apart from others in its competitive set:
“The 28-year-old company might not be as recognizable as Popeyes, but make no mistake: Its poultry can hold its own against the industry standard-bearer," Joseph wrote. "Both chains specialize in Cajun-style chicken (which is heavily spiced, breaded and flavorful) from Louisiana; but Krispy Krunchy Chicken's perfectly seasoned and juicy pieces might be the most underrated item in fast food today. While that declaration might sound sacrilegious, KKC's chicken is expertly balanced with the right amount of garlic, paprika and black pepper. The golden exoskeleton on KKC’s pieces has an airy flakiness and a sturdy architecture that never crumbles, all thanks to the aforementioned spice blend.”
Joseph also touted the uniqueness of Krispy Krunchy’s sides, which stand out from the conventional accompaniments that are typically available at major chicken QSRs. In addition to traditional favorites such as macaroni and cheese and biscuits, the menu also features rice-and-pork-stuffed boudin bites, jambalaya, peach cobbler, sweet potato pie and even breakfast empanadas filled with egg and chorizo.
Krispy Krunchy is also lauded for the consistency of its product across locations in its system, as the chain requires all operators to use Tyson chicken products as well as its proprietary marinade.
Prominent foodies, such as former "Top Chef" contestant and New York restaurateur Dale Talde and Cleveland chef Jeremy Umansky, also sing the praises of the Louisiana-based chain’s chicken in the article. Joseph refers to KKC superfans as “obsessed.”
“The first time I had it was in Brooklyn," Talde said, adding he now frequents a location in Miami. “I go there every time that I’m in Miami, and I’m in Miami once per month."
“If someone visited me from overseas and never had American fried chicken, Krispy Krunchy Chicken would be my introductory fried chicken," said Umanksy. "[This would] give them an idea about what fried chicken is truly like in America. They’re just doing it right.”
While Krispy Krunchy boasts 2,200 locations in 41 states, compared to Popeye’s 2,700 units worldwide, Joseph attributes KKC’s under-the-radar status to the fact that it is positioned inside travel plazas, traditional c-stores and gas stations. Krispy Krunchy also doesn’t advertise much, meaning that its aficionados are guided by trial and word-of-mouth.
Allison Shapiro, director of technology and communications for KKC, told Thrillist that the company is currently focused on ramping up its digital marketing outreach, which should drive brand visibility among consumer audiences that may be unaware of KKC.
And the time may be just right for Krispy Krunchy to make its move; by increasingly selling its quality story, the chain could be well-positioned to draw the millennial consumer who’s most likely to visit c-store foodservice for low-priced, yet high-quality, meals and snacks.
How long will it be before one of our industry’s best-kept secrets becomes the next big thing?