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THE EATBEAT: New bowl meals prove to be very popular at KFC

I pulled in between two red pickups in the parking lot of KFC, or Kentucky Fried Chicken, on South Washington Street and went inside to eat dinner around 2 p.m. on a recent Sunday.

I pulled in between two red pickups in the parking lot of KFC, or Kentucky Fried Chicken, on South Washington Street and went inside to eat dinner around 2 p.m. on a recent Sunday.

I was thinking of the bowl meals I have seen advertised. Instead, I was drawn to a Value Meal that I could tailor to suit my fancy. I ordered a piece of chicken breast with an extra crispy crust and sides of mashed potatoes and gravy and coleslaw. Also included was a baking powder biscuit with tiny packets of margarine and honey. I had water for my beverage. The cost was $4.80 including tax.

Service was quick. I picked up my plastic tableware and napkins and chose one of two tall tables with high-stool chairs in the newly refurbished dining area. People were coming in and out, picking up buckets of chicken and bags of chicken wings. The people eating inside were having full meals. At one table, two young men were sharing a bucket of wings.

My food was good. It was hot. I soon discovered I would rather have plain crust rather than crispy, so I peeled the crisp coating away from the chicken. The chicken was moist, tender and very tasty. The mashed potatoes and gravy were perfect, and the portion was adequate, though not large. The coleslaw was the best I have run across. The cabbage was finely chopped with a few carrots. The vinegar and oil dressing is made with sugar and a tad of Miracle Whip, and there was a nice taste of celery seed.

However, the biscuit was not as good as it looked. While it was golden brown, it still seemed doughy on the inside.

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KFC has been in Grand Forks since 1966 and is one of 5,000 in the U.S. And there are KFCs all over the world.

Manager Rick Hanson says the relatively new bowl meals are very popular. KFC sells 75 to 80 of them daily. They are meals in a bowl layered with the customer's choice of potatoes, corn, chicken, gravy and cheese. Other popular items are chicken strips and boneless wings, and pot pies sell well in cold weather.

Takeout an is important part of the business. Eight-piece chicken meals are much in demand. The chicken goes out for $10.49, or $17.99 when it includes side orders and biscuits. The side choices are potatoes, veggies, baked beans and coleslaw.

The size of red-and-white striped buckets of chicken varies from eight pieces to 20 pieces, with 12 pieces as the most frequent order. About 10 orders of 20 pieces of chicken go out each day for $24.29 or $38.99 including five side orders and 10 biscuits.

Around the circuit of KFC restaurants, customers choose the original fried chicken 2-1 over the crispy crust. But in Grand Forks, customers tend to order about 10 percent more crispy fried chicken than other places.

A refurbishing of the Washington Street KFC was completed in September. The exterior is done in earth tones of brown and tan with the bright red and blue accents of KFC now used worldwide. Inside, the brown, beige and gold theme is used with a few red booths in the corner of the light and bright seating area that is surrounded by large paneled windows.

The local KFC has 34 full- and part-time employees. The people at the counter wear red and blue shirts, and their hair is restrained by caps. Tables were being wiped regularly with a sanitizer solution, helping to create a clean feel in the dining area.

Kentucky Fried Chicken was founded by Colonel Harland Sanders in 1952 and has become a well-known institution with headquarters in Louisville, Ky.

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KFC has continued to grow and prosper in spite of criticism and controversies. The charges that KFC formerly used partially hydrogenated oil in its fried foods were widely publicized. This oil contains relatively high levels of trans fat that increases risk of heart disease.

The Center for Science in the Public Interest filed a court case against KFC. The aim was to make customers aware of the trans fats or to force a change.

In 2006, KFC began frying its chicken in oil free of trans fat. Later, it was reported a trans fat-free soybean oil was introduced in all KFC restaurants in the U.S.

Reach Hagerty at mhagerty@gra.midco.net or (701) 772-1055.

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