Six years after he packed up and left Yellowknife, the Colonel is back.
With the smell of 11 herbs and spices in the air, staff at the new KFC location on Old Airport Road were busy on May 2 with the final preparations for the restaurant’s opening on May 3.
“We’re so happy that Yellowknife and the surrounding area is waiting for the brand to relaunch,” said Sumeet Arora, director of operations with franchise owner Soul Foods Group. “We’re anticipating a lot of customers coming in over the next few weeks. We’ve been told many times that the community is waiting patiently.”
KFC’s popularity is legendary in the North. The original restaurant that had been operating for 48 years in Yellowknife experienced such high demand in its final days in 2015 that it sold 5,220 pieces of chicken in less than 36 hours.
Some Yellowknifers even felt compelled to hold a candle-lit vigil outside the restaurant on its last night of business.
Arora is well aware of the demand the restaurant will face, and said the new KFC has the capacity to handle it.
“We have enough stock available in the city and we’re ready to access it. We have partnerships with the local business community for stock. (And) we have one of the highest volume kitchens here for KFC,” he said.
Eight support staff members with Soul Foods were also brought into Yellowknife from Ontario and B.C. to help with the opening and training of staff.
Some of the first Yellowknifers to try Colonel Sanders’ secret recipe on his return were 50 clients at the Salvation Army, who were treated to hot meals delivered in person by Arora and his team on May 1.
“We were really happy to see the clients waiting and as we were carrying the food in they were clapping,” Arora said. “Just the happiness on their faces, just to know they would be the first ones to receive the food.”
Opening a new business in a pandemic has risks, but Arora said Soul Foods Group has been planning the new KFC for three years.
“I think we’re quite ready. This is one of the safest cities in the country now. We take all (health) precautions. KFC has been opening other stores in the pandemic. With the help of our communities, with the help of our teams we’ll manage.”
The initial proposal for the new KFC, discussed in a city committee meeting in 2018, included a plan to build a KFC alongside a Taco Bell and a Starbucks.
The hoped-for completion of construction in 2019 was pushed forward due to unexplained delays. In an update in 2020, Soul Foods Group said Taco Bell was dropped from the project.
Eighty employees will keep the new restaurant cooking, with another eight or 10 positions still waiting to be filled, Arora said.
KFC will hold a grand opening ceremony at 10 a.m. on May 3 and will start serving customers at 10:30 a.m..
The adjacent Starbucks cafe will open on May 7.