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“We did a soft launch to see how it would take off with demand,” says KFC Hawaii General Manager Steve Johnson. “Then we did a commercial for it about six to eight weeks after that. Within a month it was our No. 2 best-selling sandwich.”
Johnson credits Hawaii’s diverse population with the new item’s success. The islands’ culture is heavily influenced by Polynesian and Japanese taste preferences and locals were already very familiar with the May’s brand.
“It’s very popular in the supermarkets, and it’s great for barbecuing,” he says of the sauce. “It’s very popular here in Hawaii. We thought as KFC, being the No. 1 chicken brand, we should be able to do something with that local flavor that Hawaiians would enjoy.”
According to Johnson, the May’s sauce is slightly sweeter than traditional teriyaki blends and includes a hint of garlic to add more flavor. Despite being a barbecue staple in Hawaii, KFC Corporate still had to approve the May’s processing plant before the menu item could be added.
“They’re very strict on what you’re able to do,” Johnson says. “We follow the KFC domestic advertising, but we’re also part of KFC International because we report out of Asia, so that gives us a little flexibility. We can explore the flavor profiles of what our customers like.”
Although the majority of the KFC Hawaii menu items match those offered at continental stores, other unique offerings include steamed rice and potato mac salad which is a mix of potato salad and macaroni and cheese.
Thanks to the success of the May’s Teriyaki Chicken Sandwich, KFC Hawaii will also roll out a Snacker version by the end of the month and May’s boneless wings by the end of the year.
The May’s Teriyaki Chicken Sandwich is priced at $4.59 and $6.99 for the combo, which comes with wedges and a drink.