KFC plans to open a test “innovation restaurant” soon in a fast-casual format called “KFC eleven,” a spokesman from the Louisville, Ky.-based chain confirmed.

Speculation in the Louisville media about the KFC eleven prototype began last April, when Business First Louisville and other outlets reported a job listing on CareerBuilder.com for the general manager position at the “fast-casual test store” on Bardstown Road in Louisville’s Highlands neighborhood. The job listing said KFC eleven has taken the brand’s signature Original Recipe chicken “and crafted it into simple, fresh tastes for today” like flatbreads, sandwiches, salads and rice bowls.

Brands race to corner Italian fast-casual market
Fast-casual pizza concepts raising dough
More fast-casual news at NRN.com

“KFC eleven will transform how people think about the brand,” KFC said in the job listing, which also hinted that the chain could soon build more prototype locations. “This position is for the first GM at the first test store. It’s an exciting time to get in on the ground floor. The growth plan is aggressive, and so a GM hired now could be a district coach within six to nine months.”

In an email to Nation’s Restaurant News, spokesman Rick Maynard said KFC eleven is located at the intersection of Bardstown Road and Baxter Avenue.

Presumably, a menu of chicken flatbreads, salads and rice bowls would involve KFC’s Original Recipe Boneless as the base protein. The chain introduced boneless chicken in April to high expectations, complete with a major advertising push around the tagline, “I ate the bones.”

At the time of the rollout, KFC president John Cywinski said Original Recipe Boneless would serve as a springboard for further menu innovation. “Boneless will be a platform,” he said. “The sandwiches will leverage this platform, and you can expect other products from it, whether they’re new sandwiches, wraps or other innovation items.”

In parent company Yum! Brands Inc.’s June 15-ended second quarter, same-store sales at KFC in the United States rose 3 percent, which Yum president Rick Carucci attributed to the rollout of Original Recipe Boneless, lapping a year-earlier gain of 1 percent.

Yum projected net new-unit growth in the United States in 2013, the second consecutive year that could happen, though KFC was not mentioned specifically as a contributor to an increase in unit count. Net-positive openings are expected in the systems of Pizza Hut and Taco Bell, Yum officials said, owing to a small-town-friendly “del-co light” prototype for Pizza Hut and better unit economics and a new prototype for Taco Bell.

About 650 franchisees operate 95 percent of KFC’s more than 4,400 locations in the United States. Louisville-based Yum operates or franchises more than 39,000 units of KFC, Pizza Hut and Taco Bell in more than 120 countries.

Contact Mark Brandau at mark.brandau@penton.com.
Follow him on Twitter: @Mark_from_NRN