A franchise owner for 10 KFC restaurants in Newfoundland says she's giving up the fried chicken business and converting her restaurants to healthier fare.

Renee Marquis said she's rebranding her restaurants as Oppy's Diner. The menu will focus on fresh, home-cooked meals from recipes used by her mother and aunts.

"People are ready to have homemade food — served well, served simply, and good value," declared Marquis.

Restaurateur avoids roasting KFC

Marquis was careful to avoid criticizing KFC's current menu, saying only that anything deep-fried has a health risk. She added that her decision to change her restaurants was based more on her desire to try something different than on KFC's food. 

She said items on the new menu will be about the same price as items on the current KFC menu. 

The restaurants affected are in Carbonear, Bay Roberts, Marystown, Clarenville, Gander, Grand Falls-Windsor, Lewisporte, Deer Lake, Corner Brook, and Stephenville. 

Marquis said she expects to retain most of her staff at her KFC locations, and they seem to support the change.

"The girls in Carbonear and Bay Roberts are certainly chatting it up, they're excited themselves," said Marquis.

Marquis said she planned to start the changes with the KFC in Carbonear: reopen it as Oppy's Diner in August, and then convert the other restaurants shortly after that.

Fried chicken family history

Marquis has had a long history with KFC. Her father, Leo Marquis, first brought the franchise, formerly known as Kentucky Fried Chicken, to Newfoundland and Labrador in the 1960's. When Leo Marquis passed away, his daughter took over his franchise licence. 

Even though her family business was centred around fat fryers, Marquis said at home her family ate healthy, local food whenever they could.

"Since I eat fresh food, I would like for others to do the same," she said.

She pointed out that even though her father introduced fast-food chicken to this province, he always grew his own vegetables. She figured her father would be supportive of her new venture.

"I think he'd be happy about it," said Marquis. "He'd probably say I was a little nuts, but hey."

Marquis has planned her new menu to include her mother's Tennessee barbecued ribs, chicken pot pie, fish and brewis, macaroni and cheese, plus lots of fresh fruit and vegetables.