Fast food chain blames contract with delivery firm DHL, with more than 550 outlets still shut.
The fast food chain KFC has been forced to temporarily close most of its UK outlets after problems with a new delivery contract led to a chicken shortage.
A total of 562 KFC outlets remained shut following a weekend of disruption that peaked on Sunday night at 646 closures.
KFC published a list of only 338 of its 900 stores that were still open on Monday night. Many were offering a limited menu and restricted opening hours.
The chicken delivery problem is so severe that the company cannot say when operations will be back to normal. But it said it was working “flat out” to resolve the crisis.
Signs on many of the closed stores said: “Sorry, we’re closed. We deliver our chickens fresh into our restaurants, but we’ve had a few hiccups with the delivery today. We wouldn’t want to be open without offering our full menu, but we’ll be back at the fryers as soon as we can.”
KFC tried to make light of the problem, saying “the colonel is working on it” – a reference to the chain’s US founder, Colonel Sanders, whose image adorns the brand.
In a statement it blamed the chicken shortage on a contract with delivery company DHL.
“We’ve brought a new delivery partner on board, but they’ve had a couple of teething problems – getting fresh chicken out to 900 restaurants across the country is pretty complex,” it said, adding: “We won’t compromise on quality, so no deliveries has meant some of our restaurants are closed and others are operating a limited menu, or shortened hours.”
The US-owned company also apologised to customers who found UK stores closed since the end of last week. “We know that this might have inconvenienced some of you over the last few days, and disappointed you when you wanted your fried chicken fix – we’re really sorry about that,” the statement said.
The problems came after KFC switched its deliveries from Bidvest Logistics to DHL in a deal struck last year.
DHL said “operational issues” meant several KFC deliveries over recent days had been incomplete or delayed.
It added: “We are working with KFC and our partners to rectify the situation as a priority and apologise for any inconvenience this may have caused.”
DHL announced in November that it had been appointed alongside QSL to manage the supply and distribution of food products and packaging for more than 850 KFC outlets in the UK.
DHL said it would manage the physical warehouse and distribution service. KFC added it had specifically chosen the pair for their reputation of “innovation in logistics” across other industries.
The KFC closures have led to complaints and ridicule from customers.
YouTube user The BigPac recorded a video of his frustration after finding “three or four” KFC closed in the Manchester. He said: “I cannot believe KFC … we’re going to hit a MacDonald’s up. That is shit mate. We like our chicken.”
He added: “I am proper wounded that no KFC is open. Not one. You need to know about the KFC situation.”
Others mocked KFC and said they had opted for rival fast food outlets.