Customers craving fried chicken showed up to locked doors and 'closed' signs at several Kentucky Fried Chicken restaurants in Bakersfield on Tuesday.
“I’m kind of upset because now I have to go somewhere else to eat,” says Steven Adena, who went to the Union Avenue restaurant.
The restaurant on Union Avenue closed Sunday along with five other locations in Bakersfield and one in Taft. Those six places are: 705 Airport Drive, 9606 Rosedale Highway, 1400 Union Avenue, 1221 Mt. Vernon Avenue, 1449 White Lane, and 2700 Panama Lane
KFC spokesperson Rick Maynard said in an e-mail: “We understand the disappointment of our many loyal customers in Bakersfield, and we share that disappointment. KFC remains committed to this market and intends to have an even stronger presence in this area in the future. We hope our customers will continue to visit other nearby KFC locations or when traveling.”
A number of customers drove through empty drive-thrus trying to place orders, but the menus were cleared.
“I saw it was closed yesterday, but I didn't realize it was closed for good. I thought it was because it was a holiday," says Tammy Slankard, a customer.
Carolyn Bowens says she is shocked that restaurant closed because she would go every week.
“That is scary, it is,” Bowens says. “Knowing that a favorite food place can close in a matter of a weekend, that's scary."
Mohamed Huzaibi says he is going to miss being able to order a three-piece fried chicken and mashed potatoes meal at the KFC closest to him.
“It's a place that offers something different from everyday fast food. you know,” he says. “It's unfortunate that it closed down because that's one less of a choice that we have to eat.”
The former franchise owner filed for bankruptcy, and KFC corporate says it sold the six Bakersfield locations to AFC Enterprises, which owns Popeyes. More than 100 local employees were laid off.
"They’re actually bummed about it because some people got higher positions. But, that doesn't even matter anymore because they have to find a new job,” says Arielle Talamantes, who works at KFC near White Lane and Ashe Road. “I feel bad for the managers, you know. How they're getting fired and stuff. All the employees are like a family.”
The other eight California restaurants that are closing are: 86 Lake Boulevard in Redding, 847 Cypress Avenue in Redding, 808 Colusa Avenue in Yuba City, 1135 North Beale Road in Marysville, 1161 Mangrove Avenue in Chico, 1796 Oro Dam Blvd. West in Oroville, 3088 McMurray Drive in Anderson, and 1117 Kern Street in Taft.
There are also 13 franchise restaurants in Minnesota that closed and are related to the same bankruptcy court decision.
Kelsey Schmitt, a spokesperson for Popeyes, says the restaurant chain bought 28 KFCs for $13.8 million, but they don’t have a date yet on when each of the KFCs will resume business as a Popeyes restaurant.
"I’ve tried a Popeyes before, and I’m not too big of a fan of it,” says Maggi Boerlanga, who says she’s been eating at KFC since she was a little girl. “I felt like it was a little too greasy for me, and I just enjoy the entire KFC menu. There’s different things from pot pies to regular chicken, barbecue wings, and a nice biscuit. And, with the specials for $3.99, you can't go wrong.”
Maynard also said in an e-mail: “Throughout the process, KFC Corporation worked diligently with a KFC franchisee who presented an offer to operate as many of the restaurants as possible as KFC restaurants with the same employee teams. Ultimately, that better financial offer from the KFC franchisee was rejected, necessitating the closure of several Bakersfield restaurants.”
The restaurants in Bakersfield that remain open are: 3011 Brundage Lane, 6320 White Lane, and 2402 Columbus Street. There are also KFCs left in Delano and Porterville.