The ubiquitous Kentucky Fried Chicken restaurant is about to disappear from a large swath of this province, including Carbonear and Bay Roberts.
The company that owns the 10 franchise outlets outside of the St. John’s area, Marquis Ltd., confirmed last week it will not renew its franchise agreement with U.S.-based Yum Brands Inc. when it expires this fall.
Yum Brands is the owner of well-known fast-food brands KFC, Pizza Hut and Taco Bell.
Owner Renee Marquis said she plans to pursue a lifelong dream of establishing a chain of family restaurants across the province catering to those seeking healthy, nutritious food choices that are largely made from scratch.
She’s calling the restaurants Oppy’s Diner, and the first one will open its doors in Carbonear, likely in August. Others will follow as staff are trained and equipment arrives, she explained.
“I’m going back to my roots,” Marquis said.
“I’m uniquely positioned to realize a dream, and it’s now or never.”
The transformation is being welcomed by employees such as Lorraine Potter, longtime manager of the Carbonear KFC.
“I have nothing bad to say about KFC. But it’s a new chapter, and we’re all looking forward to it,” Potter said.
“I’m very excited. My staff are very excited.”
There are roughly 18 employees at each of the restaurants in Carbonear and Bay Roberts, Potter said, adding many of them have long periods of service with Marquis Ltd.
So long, Colonel
Renee’s father, Leo Marquis, brought the first KFC franchise to this province in the 1960s as part of a menu item at Barney’s Restaurant on Topsail Road in St. John’s.
He later branched out across the province, establishing restaurants in Carbonear, Bay Roberts, Clarenville, Marystown, Gander, Grand Falls-Windsor, Lewisporte, Deer Lake, Corner Brook and Stephenville.
The familiar red and white colours and the image of Colonel Sanders will now disappear from these restaurants, to be replaced by a new theme and menu that Marquis hopes will fill what she believes is a niche in the marketplace.
Oppy’s Diner will offer affordable family dining with “fresh food made simply,” she explained.
“I want to provide a service to people … that includes good value, but is also nutritious, well-prepared, healthy food. The kind you cook for yourself, but nothing instant.”
Marquis admitted she’s entering an area that’s been tried before, but in many cases has failed, since many people gravitate toward the convenience and economy offered by fast-food outlets. Her venture is different, she said, because her business is already well-established, and her 10 outlets provide a “different economic structure.”
“Because I have a bit of mass, I think I can do it,” she added.
Though she is abandoning a well-known and proven brand, Marquis was careful not to criticize KFC, which is famous worldwide for selling fried chicken by the bucket.
“I’m not anti-KFC. It’s just time for me to do something different,” she said.
“I have a young daughter and I want her to eat fresh food.”
As for the many dozens of employees at the restaurants, Marquis said their jobs are safe.
“I don’t want to lose anybody. I’m not looking to let anybody go,” she said.
She acknowledged some temporary layoffs may be necessary during the transition stage.
So is this it for KFC restaurants outside of St. John’s? Not likely, said Marquis.
“I’m certain someone will fill the void,” she said.
It’s been estimated there are 37,000 KFC outlets worldwide.