One of my favorite weekend activities in New York City is to go out to eat with my husband and try new restaurants. New York has some amazing food and a lot of unique restaurants to visit. When I learned I would be going to Tanzania I was very excited to spend some time in East Africa. I decided that while there I wanted to make sure and sample different local food.
So here I am, halfway across the world, ready for my food adventure to begin. Will it be some strange bug or exotic fruit, maybe a rare meat that is only known in this region, or …..
wait a minute, how did I wind up at a KFC? I am originally from Kentucky after all and I did not need to travel halfway across the globe to try KFC. Usually I am not the type to eat at American chains while abroad, but someone took me there and this one has an interesting story.
KCF came to Tanzania in 2013 and is the 2nd U.S. fast food chain to enter the country behind Subway Sandwich. KFC in Tanzania is a plan three years in the making since they wanted to ensure all the ingredients are sourced from local suppliers.
KFC was actually the first western food chain to open in all of east Africa when it open a store in Kenya in 2011 and today it has locations in almost 15 countries in Africa – talk about a big expansion in the last 2 years. The major reason that McDonalds or Burger King is not in East Africa is concern over the supply chain. KFC investors worked with a Kenyan chicken supplier for more than a year to bring it up to the quality control standards demanded by KFC's parent company, Yum Brands. From my brief research in writing this post, some places in Africa do not have chicken that meets KFC standards and have either been importing it, worked for a few years to get a local supplier up to standards, or have to pay above market rates for the one supplier they find in their region.
So what did this native Kentuckian think about her KCF Tanzania experience?
The “adventure” began when we drove up to a new building and big parking lot with a well lit sign of Colonel Sanders. A security guard waved us to one of the empty spaces. It looked just like any new KFC in the U.S. from the outside. Inside, the store was immaculate. I have not been inside a KFC in the U.S. for probably decades, but this one was impressive as far as KFCs goes - we are talking about a fast food chain and not the wonders of the world here so that is the context I am using. The people that worked there were extremely friendly and helpful and even rush to open the door for you. It was customer service at its best. They really seemed proud to work there and be a part of KFC in Tanzania. I honestly can’t remember the last time I ate at a KFC, but it was pretty good. They offer the same concept of extra values meals as they do in the U.S. with drinks and fries minus the option to supersize. The store sells different types of chicken at the Tanzania location including a spicy chicken which I tried and it certainly had a kick. This was not American spicy, this was African spicy. The 5 piece bucket was expensive at $13.00. That is more than the average daily income in Tanzania of approximately $2.
I never thought I would be making a comparison between Kiva and KFC, but in a way it does remind me of how Kiva is sometimes one of the first organizations to lend in a certain area or the only organization that will lend to a vulnerable group. Once other funders see that it works with Kiva, they will often come into the market and start to offer loans and other financing. KFC is paving the way for other U.S. chains to enter the market which one could argue is a good or bad depending on your thoughts on globalization, but let’s leave that for another conversation. Today I just wanted to share the story of a girl from Kentucky eating KFC in Tanzania - and to be honest, it was quite a nice experience as far as fast food goes.
And just in case you are curious about local Tanzania food, I have also been trying something new each day. I have been exploring various food stalls and my co-workers drop off a different item each day to try. It has been delicious. Please also check out Tujijenge Tanzania (my day job) and help support their current loans.