The restaurant group working to fill the KFC void outside the St. John’s area says it wants to do the same within the city.
After The Telegram reported this week that Mary Brown’s had bought two St. John’s KFC outlets and was considering purchasing the remaining five, the New Brunswick-based Franchise Management Inc. said it hopes to open six locations next year.
Dwight Fraser, the company’s president, said Tuesday it opened a KFC in Clarenville last week — one of the locations lost when multiple-franchise owner Renee Marquis elected not to renew her 10 franchise leases but instead open a chain of family restaurants called Oppy’s Diner. Marquis’s decision meant the only KFCs in the province as of October were the seven in St. John’s and a small outlet in Happy Valley- Goose Bay, but Fraser said FMI is accelerating plans to rebuild KFC’s presence in Newfoundland and Labrador.
“Everything is rolling along on schedule,” he said. “We opened in Clarenville last Saturday, and we’re very, very happy with how that’s turned out.” FMI expects to open KFCs in Corner Brook in the second week of January, in Lewisporte, Deer Lake and Carbonear in the third week of January, in Marystown the first week of February, and in Grand Falls-Windsor and Gander in mid- to late February. “These are just targets, but we’re far enough along in construction that we’re hoping to hit those dates.”
For St. John’s, the news that Chelsea Food Services’ lease agreements with KFC — which is owned by Yum Brands — wouldn’t be renewed meant an opportunity for FMI to get a foot in St. John’s as well, said Fraser.
“Our first goal was to strike a deal with the landlord and lease those (existing) locations, but that didn’t work out, and now we’re looking for new sites. So any landlords out there that have space that would be suitable, we’d certainly like to talk to them,” he said, adding the company already has a couple of sites in mind.
The company will also be looking to hire — and it may wind up competing for staff with Mary Brown’s, which told the Telegram it would hire as many former KFC employees as it could.
“Hopefully the existing staff will migrate back to us once the stores are open,” he said. “You hate to see people out of this work this time of year. We hope they do come back.”
Despite Mary Brown’s ambitious expansion plans — by early next year the St. John’s-born chicken franchise will have about 100 locations across the country — Fraser said he’s not worried about market saturation.
“The Colonel’s had a tremendous run in Newfoundland. People really like the product,” he said. “We have over 200 stores in the Yum system, and Newfoundland is probably the most exciting market for us because of the sales they’ve been doing. We’re disappointed that we have any down time at all, but from what’s happened in Clarenville, obviously people will come flocking back, so we’re hoping that that’ll be the case in all the locations as well.”