Is this a thing?
YO! certainly wants it to be. The chain has dabbled in karaage (the traditional form of Japanese-fried chicken) but is now offering fried poultry that more closely resembles that served by a certain colonel-fronted global fast food chain (it's even marinating it in buttermilk). The kaitenzushi specialist is promoting its newest festive menu item by allowing customers to bring in empty chicken buckets from rival fried chicken purveyors and get them filled up for free. The promotion will run at 50 of its restaurants from 24 to 26 November.
That’s not Christmas...
Well spotted. The promotion is designed to drum up interest in YO!’s wider Xmas offering so needs to run ahead of the actual festive period. YO! is attempting to piggyback off the Japanese craze for eating KFC at Christmas. Since the mid-1980s, KFC Japan has run a phenomenally successful 'Kentucky for Christmas' campaign. It is estimated that 3.6m Japanese families treat themselves to a festive bucket between 20 and 25 December each year.
Wow. That’s a tough act to follow for YO!’s marketing team
Indeed it is. YO! has released images of Santa ‘lookalikes’ queuing with their (generic) chicken buckets and a film also captures a group of Santas arriving at a YO! restaurant and taking customers and the team by surprise. As a campaign it's not without its issues: it runs the risk of confusing the many people that aren’t familiar with the Japanese Christmas fried chicken phenomenon and anyone that wants to bag one of the 2,000 freebies available needs to first patronise a rival restaurant chain.
And carry around a greasy bucket. What’s actually being offered?
The JFC Bucket includes chicken tenders sprinkled with nori 'tinsel', Korean wings, crunchy slaw, YO! fries, a pot of katsu curry sauce and the choice of miso corn on the cob or teriyaki BBQ beans. It’s notably more expensive than KFC at £14.95 for one or £29.50 for two. YO! is also serving the JFC Christmas Sando (£8.95), which comprises a miso-coated hash brown, crunchy slaw, karaage popcorn chicken skewer and katsu curry sauce.
Will vegans be left out in the cold this Christmas?
For vegans (and indeed vegetarians) there’s VJFC (see what they did there) which sees THIS Isn’t Chicken Karaage nuggets served alongside Korean sweet chilli sauce, YO! fries, crunchy slaw and miso togarashi corn.
What is KFC likely to think about all this?
From a commercial standpoint it’s probably not too bothered – in the grand scheme of things YO!’s move into the space is small fry given the might of KFC’s own operation. But YO! has sailed close to the wind with this one, flipping the bird - so to speak - at the fried chicken behemoth with its ‘secret’ YO! spiced flour and even going as far to describe its new chicken as ‘finger licking good’. While KFC is unlikely to call the lawyers in it will be interesting to see how its famously feisty social media team responds.