RIP, Popcorn Chicken

There's no official word on what's happening to KFC Famous Bowls yet.

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kfc popcorn chicken
Photo: rotanachannel (Shutterstock)

Internet rumors about fast food fly around no matter how far they are from the truth. Oftentimes they’re outright wrong on purpose, as in the case of this bunk McDonald’s Snack Wrap video, but sometimes they are 100% accurate, such as the buzzed-about Stroopwafel McFlurry. Most recently, we’ve heard rumblings about KFC’s alleged decision to remove popcorn chicken from the menu—and we have confirmed this to be true. But that’s not all: CBS affiliate WTAJ reports that KFC is removing other items from its menu, too.

What is KFC removing from its menu?

KFC’s menu overhaul isn’t entirely devastating, but the disappearance of popcorn chicken is likely to upset some superfans. WTAJ notes that KFC is dumping the following items:

  • Popcorn Chicken
  • Kentucky Fried Chicken Wings
  • Chocolate Chip Cookies
  • Nashville Hot Sauce
  • Strawberry Lemonade

The fact that wings are also being eliminated doesn’t entirely surprise me; my nearest KFC location hasn’t had them as an a la carte item for quite some time. Meanwhile, the cookies, hot sauce, and strawberry lemonade sound like reasonable cuts for a brand looking to streamline its menu; it’s fair to guess that these specialty add-ons weren’t exactly flying through the drive-thru window.

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A KFC representative confirmed to The Takeout that there’s no hard date when the above items will disappear from the menu; it might come down to how long it takes to sell out of the remaining supply of each item. But it sounds like KFC has been working on these changes for a while now. Brittany Wilson, director of KFC U.S., supplied the following statement:

We have strategically worked to simplify menu boards to make ordering easier for guests and create operational efficiencies for our restaurant team members. We took a deep look at the mix of the menu to see where consolidation would make sense, and we rolled out new menu boards in November 2022. Though we are removing a few items, it will allow us to make room for some new, exciting additions to the menu in 2023.

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There’s been no official announcement on whether or not a nugget product will replace the popcorn chicken (which would potentially fill the popcorn chicken void in the Famous Bowls). That product has been testing at KFC locations in the Charlotte, North Carolina region. But when the Colonel taketh, he sometimes giveth back, as we saw with the limited-time-only return of KFC wraps. Nothing gone is ever really gone.

Why KFC and other fast food chains remove items from the menu

Fast food restaurants do occasionally pare down or overhaul their menus, and it isn’t just to toy with our emotions. A prime example of menu streamlining in recent history is when Taco Bell killed off 13 menu items in 2020 due to pandemic-related operational shifts. (Some items, like the Mexican Pizza, eventually returned, while the beloved 7-Layer Burrito remains in the fast food graveyard, unable to Live Más.)

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Other times, the decision to cut a menu item comes down to the simple matter of sales figures. If an item doesn’t sell well, and very few people will miss it, why continue spending money to stock and promote it? Even an item that’s been around a long time can sometimes vanish without a trace before we even notice.

Perhaps, like the Taco Bell Mexican Pizza, we’ll see the grand return of these retired menu items. Will 2024 be the year of the limited-time-only Nashville Hot Chocolate Chip Chicken Wing Lemonade?