KFC opens new Israeli location in Nazareth

K is for Kentucky, not Kosher, Fried Chicken

Opening day at the new KFC branch in Nazereth. (photo credit: COURTESY OF KENTUCKY FRIED CHICKEN)
Opening day at the new KFC branch in Nazereth.
Israelis have resisted the allure of “finger-lickin’ good” Kentucky Fried Chicken several times in the past. But KFC opened a new Israeli branch on Monday and is hoping Israelis will do more than cross the road to get to it.
The new KFC is located in Nazareth, and at its grand opening, a crowd surged into the restaurant, gobbling up the chicken meals as fast as they could be cooked. This will be the first branch of dozens planned throughout Israel, including a Tel Aviv flagship, the company said in a statement.
Three Israeli food bloggers who were given a preview of KFC specialties gave it a thumbs up on Channel 12 news on Sunday, saying it was just as tasty as it is abroad. Prices at KFC here are slightly higher than those abroad.
KFC operates 23,000 restaurants in more than 141 countries worldwide, including Ramallah and Bethlehem, and has been planning its Israeli comeback for some time.
“After nearly two years of examining the market, securing franchisees and vendors and scouting locations, we are excited to bring our delicious finger-lickin’ good chicken, prepared the hard way, to Israel,” said Omer Zeidner, who will lead KFC’s presence in the Israeli market. “Israelis have waited a long time for KFC’s freshly prepared Original Recipe® fried chicken. A city bustling with local Israelis and tourists from around the world, Nazareth is a prime location for the brand, and we couldn’t be prouder to set up our first store in one of the most historic cities in the world.”
Asked why this time would be different, a KFC spokesman said the cuisine would be “the real thing,” made exactly as it is abroad.
While some might consider this a treat, many Israelis know this means “not kosher” since the original KFC recipe calls for buttermilk. The spokesman also said the chicken itself would not be kosher, which to many secular Israelis means it will be tastier.
Many attributed the KFC franchise’s problems in previous years to the fact that “K” will always stand for “Kentucky” and never for “Kosher.”
“The moment we switched to kosher, sales began to plunge and it was no longer economically viable,” Udi Shamai, owner of the last KFC franchise attempt in Israel, which closed in 2012, told Globes last year. “The product was less good, whereas things had gone fine with unkosher chickens.”
Members of Israel’s Anglophone community, who may have grown up enjoying KFC before they moved here, had a mixed response to the news that KFC is giving it another go in Israel.
For many, a nonkosher KFC is a nonstarter.
Hilary Hurwitz summed up the feelings of many when she said, “This Anglo says, ‘If it is not kosher, it has no interest for me.’”
Henry Ginsburg said: “They closed in Israel in 2012 for a reason, and I think it’s interesting they are willing to give it another shot.” He mentioned that there is now a kosher alternative, JFC, a kosher version of KFC.
Others were more optimistic. Josh Aronson, a British-born journalist who works at Maariv, said: “Every time I fly abroad my first stop is KFC... If I’ll be near Nazareth, I will be going in and hoping for more branches country wide... I think the fact that this time it’s not kosher will allow it to succeed due to taste value.”
Mike Brand, a presenter and manager at the Voice of Peace Radio 100FM Internet station, also originally from Britain, questioned whether the chain would be a hit this time for a different reason: “What with the health trend at the moment, I don’t know if it will succeed.”
Israel has bucked trends in the past when it comes to popular global franchises. Starbucks, which has franchises in dozens of countries around the world, closed down in Israel in 2003, although there are reports it is headed for a similar reboot soon. Burger King is another global chain that has closed are reopened here several times and recently grabbed headlines with a commercial appealing to Breslov Hassidim and other religious Jews, touting its kosher (turkey) bacon.
But fried chicken does seem to be popular here. Seven KFC branches are already located in Area A in the West Bank, along with dozens of other fried-chicken joints that are owned and operated by Palestinians.