Fast Food Flops

July 15, 2013

Spinoffs are common in entertainment: Puss in Boots was a spinoff of a character from the Shrek movies, and All in the Family spun off a number of other hit TV sitcoms, including Maude and Good Times. Spinoffs are a lot less common in the fast food restaurant business. But in the late 1960s, two successful fast food chains tried to expand with new restaurants serving completely different food. The result: fast food flops.

Flop #1. After founder Harlan Sanders sold Kentucky Fried Chicken and allowed it to be aggressively franchised in the early 1960s, the chain’s popularity grew just as fast. By 1968 it was the sixth-largest restaurant chain in America and worth hundreds of millions of dollars. Rather than saturate the market with even more KFC locations, the company opted to start a second restaurant chain: Kentucky Roast Beef & Ham. The new chain sold all the standard KFC side dishes. But instead of chicken, they served roast beef and ham. Launched in 1968, all the roast beef and ham restaurants were converted into chicken joints by 1973.

Flop #2. In February 1970, Taco Bell announced that after having successfully Americanized (and franchised) Mexican food, it would take on another regional cuisine: barbecue. Founder Glen Bell called it “Hickory Bell” and offered franchises to existing Taco Bell franchisees. Despite Western-themed interiors like wood facades and railings to evoke a Gold Rush-era shack, only three Hickory Bells were ever opened, all in the Los Angeles area. And all of them were later turned into Taco Bells.