We usually associate the word “spinoff” with TV shows—Frasier was a spinoff of Cheers, or Laverne & Shirley was a spinoff of Happy Days, for example. But it’s an idea used in the world of restaurants, too. Or at least it was—as these three spinoffs of a very famous fast food brand all flopped.
Another KFC spinoff: a 1970s chain called Ollie’s Trolleys. Tiny restaurants housed in mock-streetcars, they offered only walk-up service, meaning there was no inside seating, jut a couple of benches. Ollie’s (named for a John Y. Brown business associate named Ollie Gelichenhaus) sold a limited menu of hot dogs, fries, milkshakes, and the Ollieburger, billed as “the world’s best hamburger” because it was seasoned with “23 special herbs and spices.” More than 100 little Ollie’s Trolley locations popped up in major cities on the East Coast by 1976. Almost all of them shut down by 1980—unable to compete with Burger King and McDonald’s. Today, three independently owned and operated Ollie’s Trolleys are still open in Cincinnati, Louisville, and Washington, D.C.
Kentucky Roast Beef and Ham Restaurants
Kentucky Fried Chicken was the fastest-growing restaurant chain the late ‘60s, prompting company owner John Y. Brown (who purchased it from Colonel Harland Sanders, and who would later be the governor of Kentucky) to expand…into side businesses. Brown thought that using “Colonel Sanders” branding could sell anything, not just chicken, so in 1967 he opened more than 100 Kentucky Roast Beef and Ham restaurants. Almost identical to Kentucky Fried Chicken in every way, the only difference was that they sold slow-roasted beef and country ham instead of fried chicken. Every single one closed down by 1970.
Inspired by the rise of “upscale” fast food restaurants like Chipotle, in 2013 Kentucky Fried Chicken tested a new restaurant called KFC Eleven. Named for the “11 herbs and spices” in its fried chicken recipe, the restaurant didn’t offer the regular KFC fare, but instead had flatbread sandwiches, rice bowls, and salads, all including boneless KFC chicken. The company opened up one location in Louisville as a test in August 2013. It closed less than two years later, and no more KFC Elevens ever materialized.