Why is KFC so popular at Christmas dinner in Japan?

A peculiar tradition in Japan has people eating a bucket of KFC bargains on Christmas Day instead of a home-cooked dinner, with orders booked weeks in advance.

The stores receive a Christmas-themed makeover before Christmas, decorated in red and green.

The ‘Kentucky for Christmas’ slogan was part of a marketing campaign in 1974 for the chicken franchise, and now every year an estimated 3.6 million Japanese people sit down to KFC fried chicken at Christmas.

Even KFC’s mascot, Colonel Sanders, is dressed up as life-size models seen across Japanese cities dressed as Santa Claus.

Colonel Claus!  Even KFC mascot Colonel Sanders dresses up in full-size models seen in Japanese cities like Tokyo (pictured)

Colonel Claus! Even KFC mascot Colonel Sanders dresses up in full-size models seen in Japanese cities like Tokyo (pictured)

The campaign began in the 1970s to attract tourists and expatriates with chicken on Christmas Day, when they couldn’t find turkey to eat, and was the brainchild of Takeshi Okawara, manager of the country’s first KFC, according to the BBC.

Okawara publicly said that the idea came from a dream, where he imagined people eating KFC at a Christmas party.

However, the real story is that it resulted from a moment of desperation and a slight adjustment of the truth – something he said he ‘regretted’ today.

Business Insider reports that he was sleeping on flour sacks after opening his own KFC branch, and the westernized red and white signage confused locals, who would come in and ask if he ran a barber shop.

Knowing his business was at stake, Okawara went on the radio to explain that the custom of Kentucky Fried Chicken at Christmas instead of a turkey was a popular tradition in the West.

The Christmas 'barrel' contains chicken from the original recipe, a salad and a gateaux-style chocolate cake, plus a collectible plate

The Christmas ‘barrel’ contains chicken from the original recipe, a salad and a gateaux-style chocolate cake, plus a collectible plate

He told Business Insider: ‘I still regret it, but people liked it because it was a good thing. [they thought came] from the United States or European countries’

By 1973, KFC Japan had expanded to 75 locations, making it one of the most successful fast food chains in the country.

The idea caught on and in 1974 the first commercial aired was aimed at couples – advertising a bucket of chicken along with a bottle of wine.

As only one percent of the population is Christian, the holiday is often marked by non-traditional festivities and a notable lack of religious symbolism.

But for those who participate, it’s not as simple as walking in and ordering. December is a busy month for KFC in Japan – daily sales at some restaurants over the Christmas period can be 10 times higher than usual. Getting the meal usually requires ordering weeks in advance, and those who haven’t will wait in line, sometimes for hours.

KFC’s Christmas Bucket, commonly referred to as a keg, comes with a Christmas-themed limited-edition collectible dish.

Kentucky Christmas came to Japan in the 1970s and in 1974 the first ad aired on television.

Kentucky Christmas came to Japan in the 1970s and in 1974 the first ad aired on television.

Not surprisingly, the week leading up to Christmas Eve is the most profitable week of the year for the franchise, grossing £38,000,000 (6.1 billion Japanese yen) in 2018 and achieving record sales of £44,000,000 (7. 1 billion yen) in 2019.

Revenue fell in 2020 from the previous year’s rise to £43,000.00 (6.9 billion yen) in the week of Christmas due to Covid-19 restrictions.

In 2021, social distancing regulations threatened the custom as large queues were discouraged, with KFC Japan holdings encouraging customers to order online and pick up their food at a certain time, rather than lining up at the outside the door.

Other companies cashed in on the fried chicken bonanza, with supermarket chains and convenience stores like FamilyMart offering their own budget-friendly versions of the fried feast.

See More info…

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