The Chicken Wars

The Chicken Wars

Chefs & Experts

The Chicken Wars


Don’t tell my husband that he can get a chicken meal for $1. Especially not on a night when he is trying to do something nice for me. ‘Cause he’ll be there. Along with the rest of the world.

It all started back when Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC) introduced its grilled chicken and gave it away for free (see Freebie Alert). We all remember the ensuing problems, right? Well, maybe all of us except Boston Market.

They were trying to do a nice thing. It’s just that a lot of people took them up on their gesture, just as they did with KFC. Boston Market wanted to one up KFC by giving away a full meal—not just a piece of meat. According to the coupon, you could get “your choice of a quarter white or 3-piece dark chicken, mashed potatoes and cornbread.” For $1. What’s more, the coupon could be forwarded to friends.

Well, nice guy husband offered to pick up supper. Once at Boston Market, he had a nice chat with the people in line—many of them—and with the manager, who was greeting people and assuring them that it was worth the wait. As they ran out of chicken, the store generously substituted rainchecks or alternative meals, meaning we had brisket instead of chicken, and green beans instead of mashed potatoes—hey, it was still just $1!

Moral of the story? If you offer something free, or close to free, you run the risk of alienating as many people as you win over. But, even if you run out of food, a good manager can make the difference in whether you come back or not.

During their conversation, nice guy manager told nice guy husband that one reason for the promotion was to remind customers of all they had to offer, including a “Real Chicken Meal.” And, yes, it had probably been five years since either of us had been to Boston Market. So it worked. We didn’t get chicken, but, since I’m now craving chicken, we’ll most likely go back.

They may have run out of food, but they didn’t run out of customer service. That’s at least a little bit of bang for that buck.


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