KFCS dis­ap­pear­ing

Ten lo­ca­tions, in­clud­ing those in Car­bon­ear and Bay Roberts, con­vert­ing to fam­ily restau­rants

The Compass - - FRONT PAGE - BY TERRY ROBERTS THE COM­PASS

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 metropoli­tan re­gion, Mar­quis Lim­ited, con­firmed last week that it will not be re­new­ing 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 stated in a July 5 in­ter­view. “I’m uniquely po­si­tioned to re­al­ize a dream, and it’s now or never.”

The trans­for­ma­tion is be­ing wel­comed by em­ploy­ees like 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 that many of them have long pe­ri­ods of ser­vice with Mar­quis Lim­ited.

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 Fall­sWind­sor, Lewis­porte, Deer Lake, Corner Brook and Stephenville.

The famil i ar red and whi te colours and the im­age of Colonel Sanders will now dis­ap­pear from th­ese restau­rants, to be re­placed by a new theme and menu list 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 most go with the con­ve­nience and econ­omy of­fered by fast-food out­lets. Her ven­ture is dif fer­ent, she said, be­cause her busi­ness is al­ready wellestab­lished, and her 10 out­lets pro­vides a “dif­fer­ent eco­nomic struc­ture.”

“Be­cause I have a bit of mass, I think I can do it,” she added.

Though she is aban­don­ing a well­known 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 t he many dozens of em­ploy­ees at th­ese 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 that 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 noted.

It’s been es­ti­mated there are some 37,000 KFC out­lets world­wide.

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