Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC) and High-Context Culture

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About KFC Corporation

KFC Corporation is KFC is one of the top fast food brand which is famous for fired chicken chain restaurant over the world. The company processes over 20,000 KFC outlets in almost 130 countries worldwide. Originally, it was pioneered by Colonel Harland Sanders whose idea was to operate a service station and cooked for hungry travelers who dropped by for a gas. His fame gradually grew, from US-Canada to other eastern countries. At present, KFC serves more than 12 million customers daily.

The KFC Case in China

In 2015, there were three companies in China, namely Shanxi Weilukuang Technology Company, Taiyuan Zero Point Technology, and Yingchenanzhi Success and Culture Communication stand accused of using social media to spread out rumours that KFC had produced a six-winged, eight-legged chicken. The press mentioned that KFC has developed mutant, tube-fed creatures with ‘no beaks, no feathers and no feet’, but ‘multiple legs and wings on one ‘chicken”. The economic advantages are obvious. In fact, the story about genetically modified the genes of chicken is not specific to China. There were a report alleges that Kentucky Fried Chicken was obliged to shorten its name to KFC because it was no longer throwing real chickens into the fryer. The rumour has cause huge damage to KFC business. At the time, it is reported by public media that the company lost $2.4 billion in market capitalization during the months of rumors. KFC has tried a number of strategies to counter negative comments on social media. They assured that the company used the quality line of rasing chicken and manufacturing their product. “If there were such a chicken, KFC would certainly be qualified to apply for a Nobel Prize in biology,’ KFC China President Qu Cuirong said in a statement in Chinese.

Communicating about Conflicts between Members of Different Cultures

  • KFC is proved as a high QC corporation

KFC is a global brand in the world, it is undeniable that their products suit most of the taste of every customer in various countries. In China, KFC also created a successful approach. KFC has retained its position in the Chinese market through a long-term adaptation to the unique taste favor of the country, the chain boasts a full Chinese breakfast menu alongside fish and shrimp burgers, vegetable soups and full-plate meals with vegetable sides. Given KFC’s shift to a dine-in experience, this menu variety caters to local tastes while offering enough variety to encourage repeat visits. They also expanded rapidly into small and midsize cities; developed a vast logistics and supply chain organization; trained employees in customer service; and owning rather than franchising the restaurants. With more than 5,000 restaurants in 1,100 cities in China, KFC dominates the country’s fast food landscape. The rumor has made their image inclined amongst the Chinese population.

  • Listening sincerely and expressing agreement
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Varner and Beamer, 2011 stated that “in many high-context cultures a public acknowledgment of disagreement is not acceptable. If the other party comes from such a culture and you come from a low-context culture, you may have a hard time getting any discussion about the conflicts out in the open”. (p.322). They acknowledged the dominant role of social media We-chat and the increasing concern over health safety from the population. The representative of the company agreed that the impact of pubic media can control over the customers’ viewpoint over “the crowd effects”. Also, there is a tendency in the population that one always focuses on the bad and shocking news without any notice of proving the post’s credential. KFC itself acknowledges that the story about the chain’s supposedly mutant chickens has spread for long, but this is just one of the nowadays urban legends, none of which proved to be creditable up to present time. “Usually, people have reasonable concerns, and if you put yourself in the other person’s position, you can agree with his or her view of the issues.” (Varner and Beamer, p.323)

Yum!, the mother company of KFC, addressed this issue aggressively, a lawsuit has been issued for the three companies but it won’t help its public image. The company should immediately launch a humorous and pervasive social media campaign on WeChat–imagine brightly animated gifs and longer-form cartoons showing hundreds of eight-legged chickens bursting through the doors and windows of KFC restaurants. This showed a very high CQ strategy from KFC representatives as in high-context culture, people would go to great lengths to keep good relationship. “Instead of verbalizing conflict, high-context-communication cultures use actions to compensate, show goodwill, and restore harmony to the group.” (Varner&Beamer, p.312). This response from Yum! not only showed how they acknowledged the situation seriously but also conveyed an indirect message for their customers over how the problem is over exaggerated. When the same problem happened in the US, KFC insists on its site in bold words “NO MUTATED CHICKENS ARE INVOLVED IN MAKING OUR DELICIOUS FRIED CHICKEN’.

  • Identifying Common Goals

KFC defines the health safety besides serving quality menus as the main purpose in the manufacturing process of the company. Thus, any proven promising evident would be the shared regard between the two. Varner and Beamer, 2011, mentioned that “identifying common goals is the key to an agreement that is usually labeled “win–win” … When both parties can identify common goals, both can work to reach them.” (p.323). For the customers, their high regard towards the products from KFC is inevitable, and undeniably the amount of fried chicken is consumed in a fast-growing pace in recent years. KFC won’t lose their market, but their sale would be damaged gradually should their quality is still alarmed. For that reasons, if there is a publicized campaign over improving quality of their products, the two sides can both enjoy intense benefits.

In fact, KFC China confirmed that they strictly supervise the whole supply chain, all processed from animal feed firms and other input providers, and it trains employees in personal hygiene, including dressing requirement for the workplace and timeline to wash their hands. KFC also promised in 2018 the company will only serve chicken that was raised without potentially dangerous antibiotics, joining a growing list of fast food companies that have made food supply changes aimed at drawing in health conscious eaters. Vijay Sukumar, chief food innovation officer for KFC U.S, said, ‘To extend our commitment beyond our boneless menu items to all of our chicken required detailed and thoughtful planning over the past year, including utilizing the USDA’s Process Verified program to ensure our suppliers can meet our requirements. We’re proud to make a commitment this expansive and believe this change will aid in shifting the rest of the industry.’ For high-context culture, the win-win achievements are highly valued, the customers can enjoy their favor food without any concern, and KFC can be proud of their annual revenue. This proves how much KFC respects their users, through which their business is protected. KFC definitely takes this problem seriously owing to the fact that they have to compete with the other giants in fast food industry in the China market, namely Mc Donald’s and Taco Bell, the two of them already gained reputation over safety issues. This is a strong basis for the promise of improved quality product from KFC for their customers, thus proving how wisely they handle this conflict in the harsh situation.

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