The New York Times (NYT) unleashed an in-depth report last week by Dionne Searcey, the West and Central Africa bureau chief on how obesity is rising in Ghana (actually mainly Accra) due to the popularity of fast food especially fried chicken. Somewhat it landed on KFC as a central piece to the obesity puzzle. This was not helpful terrible PR for KFC but who reads NYT in Ghana anyways.
Here are ten things we learned about KFC, obesity and restaurants in Ghana:
1) Healthy sides in KFC Ghana are coming soon: Unlike in Western countries, where healthy options such as grilled chicken, salads, green beans and corn are standard, they seem to be lacking in KFC locations in Accra and Kumasi. In the meantime, customers aren’t complaining and are happy with a “version of jollof rice, a locally beloved spicy dish made with peppers and onions”
2) KFC isn’t just food, it’s a Social Status: Personally we thought going to likes of Burger & Relish or Bistro 22 was the real mark of social status in the beautiful city of Accra but then again there are levels. NYT doesn’t seem to think so. “People march their sons and daughters to buy KFC and buy pizza and they like to show them what we can afford,” said Matilda Laar, a lecturer at the University of Ghana.
3) Celebrating your Birthday at KFC is very hip and fried chicken is going to overtake Banku: “Mr. Awaitey, who celebrated his 27th birthday at a KFC, was raised eating local dishes like soup and banku, a mix of fermented corn and cassava dough. He has increasingly made KFC part of his routine” Mr Awaitey wishes KFC was available when he was going up and could have avoided eating all the good Banku.
4) KFC’s busiest location is on Oxford Street in Osu: The three-story, glassy corner building on a busy retail strip attracts folks from all walks of life including “students from nearby universities using free Wi-Fi at corner tables; government workers ordering lunch to go; members of an artists’ collective meeting over dinner to talk about a poetry slam; a dad treating his teenage son and friends to takeout chicken”.
5) At the weekend, the champagnes are popping in KFC: “A group of women dressed in tight, sparkly gowns guzzled champagne from the bottle one evening around a table littered with french fries, fried chicken and a birthday cake”
6) KFC’s 13 locations or so in Accra is shaping eating habits for the whole of Ghana: The report notes that “KFC’s presence in Ghana so far is relatively modest but rapidly growing, and it underscores the way fast food can shape palates, habits and waistlines.” Apparently some customers were outraged due to rationing in early July as KFC was running low on chicken (Brazil didn’t come through). Also for those interested in finding calorie counts which is typically provided in the US, Ghanaians need to go online to find this information. Accordingly to KFC, once the government or customer demands increased disclosure – change will come.
7) When folk pass out and die for any reason, usually it must be diet related: This concept was the hardest to understand in the report and even the authors acknowledged the lack of evidence to support this.
8) Mohinani wants to grow KFC to be an everyday brand: Ashok Mohinani opened a KFC franchise store in 2012 which included the first drive-through restaurant in the nation. As the group has expanded the restaurant footprint, the goal ahead is to “move KFC from a special treat to routine”. This is the dream of every fast food enterprise in Africa. To increase repeat visits at the restaurants in recent years, Mohinani’s company has cut menu prices which seems to have paid off.
9) KFC is targeting “hustlers and influencers” in its latest ad campaign: KFC launched a marketing campaign called “Streetwise 2” featuring popular local singer Ko-Jo Cue aimed at folks who rose from the streets and climbed the social ladder. The “Streetwise 2” offer is two pieces of chicken, fries and a Coke for GH₵15. Don’t ask us for the definition of influencers; we have no idea either.
10) There is a huge opportunity for poultry farming in Ghana: KFC currently imports chickens from Brazil because “local farms don’t yet meet KFC’s standards for safety”. Just imagine if you could become a backup or secondary chicken supplier to the KFC franchise stores in Ghana.
Read the full coverage of obesity in Ghana from the New York time here.