More than 100 Yellowknifers came out the morning of May 3 to welcome KFC back to the city after a six-year absence.
At least a dozen hungry diners were lined up outside the new restaurant on Old Airport Road before the official 10:30 a.m. opening.
More than 25 vehicles were queued up in the drive thru lane, with the row of motorists eventually snaking back to Range Lake Road.
Connoisseurs of the 11 herbs and spices in the line up counted down from 10 in the final seconds before KFC opened for the first customers.
“It’s fun being here,” said Gail Cyr, as she tucked into her finger lickin’ good meal inside. “We brought our own chairs to sit outside. We came here around a quarter to 10 a.m. I came by at 6:30 a.m. just to see if anyone camped out and no one had. And I came at 8:30 a.m. too and no one was here.”
Justina Beaverho met Cyr in the lineup before KFC opened.
She said it “feels right” that KFC has returned to Yellowknife.
“It was always nice with the old one, when we went there we would see friends and family. And I’m wearing my KFC colours!”
Tina Tristan Madison said she’s glad she’s able to have KFC in Yellowknife after not eating the fried chicken in more than a year.
“I’m happy. The last time I ate it was at High Level,” she said.
While the mood at Yellowknife’s newest restaurant was celebratory in itself, the planned ribbon cutting ceremony was cancelled due to the closure of schools in the city.
Chief public health officer Dr. Kami Kandola ordered all schools to close in Yellowknife, Dettah and Ndilo on May 2 amid the COVID-19 outbreak at N.J. Macpherson school. The outbreak spread to include eight cases - mostly children - and an additional 12 probable cases, she said on May 3.
The cancellation was done out of respect for the safety of the community due to the rise in COVID-19 cases, said Erin Fenwick, spokesperson for KFC franchise owner Soul Foods Group.
Even without a grand ceremony, the first 30 minutes of business went by with a flurry of activity.
“Customers are happy with the food. People eating inside are loving the food. I think the employees are excited too. We had well over 100 customers by 11 a.m,” said Sumeet Arora, Soul Foods Group’s director of operations.
Karen Martin, who was among the long line of drivers slowly inching along in the drive thru, smiled as she received her paper bag full of hot chicken at the pick-up window from attendant Kaya Goulet.
“I’m at a loss for words. I haven’t had KFC in years,” Martin said. “It feels very exciting to have KFC back. I know everybody misses it.”
KFC’s grand opening is the culmination of three years of planning and construction, said Arora, who on May 2 oversaw the final preparations for the restaurant’s first day. An adjacent Starbucks cafe will open its doors on May 7.
Colonel Sanders’ much-anticipated return to Yellowknife comes six years after the original KFC restaurant closed in 2015.
It previously operated in Yellowknife for 48 years.