After being pestered for two months, KFC finally had a response to questions about why their Whitehorse franchise closed.
“It’s not something we have any information on at this time,” said Lynsey Brothers, a staffer at Wilcox Group, which manages KFC’s public image.
Wilcox, a Vancouver-based public relations outfit, handles correspondence between the media and KFC’s mother corporation, Yum Brands International.
“Anyone that has anything to do with this said there was no information,” said Brothers.
Pesky reporters aren’t allowed to speak directly to Yum Brands.
They’re referred to Wilcox.
But Wilcox wasn’t speaking on behalf of Yum Brands, said Brothers.
“Please remember that I’m not a
spokesperson,” she said.
“Even if you field all of Yum’s calls?” she was asked.
“I’m just the media relations contact, so I’m not a spokesperson and cannot be quoted,” she said.
“It wouldn’t mean anything to your readers to quote me because I’m not a spokesperson.”
This was one cagey chicken company.
What was the big deal?
Surely Yum Brands, the world’s biggest fast food chain with more than 36,000 restaurants worldwide, wouldn’t mind letting its Whitehorse customers know why it closed up shop so suddenly this September.
“I was not provided with any details,” said Brothers.
She eventually stopped returning calls.
The chicken hunt was on.
Follow the feathers
The company put up plenty of decoys along the way.
“Sorry, we are closed due to renovations,” says a sign on the Second Avenue building.
The restaurant sure didn’t look like it was being repaired.
The drive-thru and the parking lot haven’t been plowed.
Tiny packets of BBQ sauce are piled in a box near a drive-thru window.
Soft drink supplies are still lined up beside the soda fountain.
And even a pile of blue bread baskets are stacked against the building’s back wall – giving the appearance of a rushed departure.
But what would make such a greasy, flightless bird fly?
Rick Karp, president of the Whitehorse Chamber of Commerce, bemoaned the downfall of Whitehorse’s only KFC.
“It’s a shame to lose another small business in Whitehorse,” said Karp.
“I know that we got phone calls about it, and there was a sign that they couldn’t get any chicken,” he said.
Definitely another decoy.
It’s a stretch to think Yum Brands, which owns Pizza Hut, Taco Bell, Long John Silver’s and all the A&Ws; outside of Canada, couldn’t get its deliveries straight for two months.
These guys are the kings of food efficiency.
It just wasn’t the dirty bird’s style.
But then Karp dropped a clue.
The trouble with franchises
Franchises can sometimes get bogged down in problems if the franchisee owns the restaurant property, said Karp, who formerly ran the McDonald’s in town.
If the corporation, or franchisor, owns the property, it’s easier for the big guys to swoop in and get the place going again should trouble arise.
If the franchisee owns the property, things get a lot more complicated, said Karp.
Whitehorse’s former Dairy Queen had a similar problem, he said.
The property, along with the business, had to be sold.
“I don’t know who owns the KFC,” he said.
The franchisees were Donald and Margaret MacLeod.
Their company, S & S Services Limited, was incorporated in the 1970s.
But their Whitehorse phone number was disconnected.
They live down in Vancouver, said Willard Phelps, who was listed as an assistant secretary in S & S’s corporate file.
Phelps hadn’t heard from them in a while, he said.
He passed his clients on to other legal firms when he stopped working in law years ago.
There are six Donald MacLeods listed in Vancouver. The right one couldn’t be reached by press time.
But there was still the property ownership.
The property is owned by the MacLeods, not Yum Brands.
The certificate of title, dated April 22, 1997, lists the estimated property value at $378,000.
It also says a $1 million mortgage was registered against the property by the Business Development Bank of Canada on August 15, 1997.
Also, a $100,000 encumbrance was placed against the property by KFC Franchisee Purchasing of Canada Inc. on September 1, 1999.
Recently, the MacLeod’s franchise company had a tax lien filed against it by the city of Whitehorse. That’s dated April 27.
But don’t ask KFC about any of this.
They’ll just tell you to cluck off.
Contact James Munson at