'Neglected' Yellowknife KFC to fly the coop, shut down in August

The Yellowknife Kentucky Fried Chicken is flying the coop this August. The popular restaurant will close its doors on Aug. 23, exactly 47 years after it first opened in 1968.

Popular KFC franchise was the first fast food chain to open in Yellowknife, gained loyal followers

The popular KFC restaurant downtown Yellowknife is shutting its doors Aug. 23. Its owners blame their frustrations with KFC corporate for its closure. (Haydn Watters/CBC)

The Yellowknife Kentucky Fried Chicken is flying the coop this August. The popular chicken restaurant will close its doors on Aug. 23, exactly 47 years after it first opened in 1968. 

Matthew Jason, who runs the local franchise with his sister, Sasha, and his mom, Gabi, says the move comes after years of "headaches" and frustrations with KFC corporate headquarters. The Jason family has owned the Yellowknife location since it first opened.

"It seems like the franchise [headquarters] themselves are just getting worse and worse to deal with, and you know, it's just not worthwhile for us," he told CBC News.

"Talking to them was just so frustrating. At one point, they didn't even realize what was actually at our location. Like, they thought we had a drive-thru and this and that, which is, you know, a little bit ridiculous... that just goes to show how neglected you get being up here in the north."

The family has tried to sell the franchise for several years, but Jason says KFC has strict regulations about who runs their restaurants. He says KFC turned down all of the people who were interested in buying the Yellowknife location. 

With their franchise agreement up in August, the family's only options were to renew or close down entirely. Jason says renewing would have meant dealing with unfeasible new regulations, like moving to a new location which could have a drive-thru. 

"We really didn't feel like we were given any support [from corporate] at all. And that's not really a good feeling."

Calls to KFC's corporate offices have not been returned. 

Among the top performing KFCs in Canada

KFC was the first fast food chain to open in Yellowknife. It's become a "staple" of Yellowknife cuisine and gained some ardent followers, particularly among those who live in the communities.

Up until two years ago, the Yellowknife KFC used to cook and ship large thousand piece orders to weddings and funerals in the remote northern communities and as far away as Nunavut. 

Matthew Jason, one of the Yellowknife KFC's co-operators, says it has a loyal fan base. 'Down south, it’s not really looked at the same way, but here it’s been kind of a staple... It's been here so long, probably since most Yellowknifers have lived here.'

Jason says the Yellowknife location has consistently been in the top 10 of the best performing KFC franchises in the country.

"It's definitely profitable, it's just, you know, it depends on what you stand for," he said. "We just didn't feel that [the] products and the direction that KFC was taking was a direction we wanted to go in. Like, we did not see eye to eye."

Despite the family dynasty, Jason says he won't miss much about the KFC when it closes in August. Though he loves KFC's Spicy Big Crunch sandwich, he says he can get his fix whenever he goes south.

But he realizes that the closing of the Colonel may come as a shock for some. 

"Oh man, I wouldn't be surprised if there's people, you know, like showing up on my doorstep with pitchforks and torches," he said, laughing. 

"I mean a lot of people don't do well with change, especially something that huge, and it's a huge change for a small town. And not only this town, other communities as well."

Jason says they will be renovating the property and will open a new restaurant in late 2015. It will be called the Lenny Burger, named after his father and the former KFC franchise owner. 

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