Sat | Jan 23, 2021

KFC enters Junction, finally

Published:Wednesday | December 2, 2020 | 12:06 AMNeville Graham/Business Reporter
Mark Myers, managing director of Restaurants of Jamaica/KFC Jamaica.
Mark Myers, managing director of Restaurants of Jamaica/KFC Jamaica.

KFC Jamaica opened a new outlet in Junction, St Elizabeth on Monday, a $200-million investment that brings the number of stores in the chain to 39, and ends a years-long wait by the community for the fast-food chain to set up shop there.

The southern St Elizabeth town of Junction lies at the heart of a road network that links to Manchester and even parts of Clarendon.

Beginning in the 1970s, with the rise of bauxite mining and expanded farming, the town took on increased significance as a transportation hub and a commercial centre – forming the third apex of the triangle that incorporated Santa Cruz and Black River.

But the fact that the whole southern belt was lacking in potable water had formerly acted as a barrier to entry for the fast-food chain, according to Mark Myers, managing director of Restaurants of Jamaica, ROJ, operators of the KFC franchise.

“We’ve been eager to enter the area for several years in light of consumer demand. Expansion plans didn’t allow for that until the necessary infrastructure was in place. NWC connection was completed in 2020, and here we are,” Myers said in an interview.

ROJ currently has no plans for new locations in the general area, he added.

The restaurant company is in the process of executing a seven- to 10-store expansion programme – at least four under the KFC brand and another three dedicated to Pizza Hut – initially disclosed last year to the Financial Gleaner by Myers.

The company is investing $2 billion in setting up the stores during the three-year roll-out through to 2021.

Two KFC stores and a Pizza Hut were added last year.

The new KFC Junction is a 4,000-square-foot standard KFC outlet, with in-dining facilities that won’t be utilised until COVID-19 restrictions are lifted on the restaurant sector, but it won’t have drive-thru service.

A Pizza Hut is also to be added to the chain this month in Harbour View, but none is planned for the Junction township.

“Although the prolonged pandemic has impacted our business significantly, we have made a decision to continue to grow – not to contract,” said Myers, while noting that the $2-billion expansion programme remains on target.

“2020 has been a tough year, but we are thankful we did not have to reduce our teams during the pandemic, and are now proud to be creating even more jobs in the midst of the heightened levels of unemployment that we now face,” said the fast-food operator.

“We are on track with our network expansion targets for ROJ Group. We look forward to four additional KFC and Pizza Hut restaurants slated to open as planned in 2021, as the economy continues to reopen,” he said.

“We have made a commitment to fulfil our planned network expansion and to do our part to stimulate the economy and support our nation. We are happy to be growing, creating jobs for Jamaicans, and going into a community that has long demanded our products and is giving us a very warm and highly anticipated welcome,” he said.

It’s likely that Junction, given its long wait for a KFC outlet, will provide high-volume traffic for the new store.

Before COVID, KFC stores right across Jamaica were often jam-packed with customers due to high-volume traffic. But with social-distancing protocols limiting the number of persons gathered within confined spaces, the fast-food chain has been looking at, and coming up with, new ways to serve its large customer base, especially those in dense urban communities.

“For example, our introduction into the delivery channel in Kingston and St Andrew, and more recently Portmore. We are currently exploring expanding delivery and other access channels for customer convenience and safety,” Myers said.