Why These KFC Items Didn't Last

When Colonel Harland Sanders first opened the Sanders Café at a refurbished Corbin, Kentucky, gas station in the 1930s — aka the world's first KFC location — it's difficult to imagine he could've predicted his restaurant would become an international juggernaut over the next century. Whether or not he possessed a prescience regarding the future popularity of his pressure-cooked fried chicken is largely irrelevant. After all, the man's main focus was always producing top-notch, high-quality meals for interested diners, no matter what was on his menu.

In that regard, while Colonel Sanders' famed (and highly secretive) 11 herbs and spices have remained unchanged through the ensuing decades, the same can't be said for the rest of KFC's menu. The chain has introduced a staggering number of food products over the years, and though some have survived over time (Famous Bowls, anyone?), many weren't long for the fast-food fried chicken world.

Be it a misguided attempt to expand beyond its fried chicken sweet spot, a poultry-centric swing and a miss, or something else entirely, there's no shortage of food items that failed to become permanent KFC additions. With so many now-discontinued menu items to consider, we decided to highlight some of the more noteworthy ones from KFC's history. From basic chicken wings to edible ice cream cups, here's why these KFC items didn't last.

Chicken Wings

When a fast food chain like KFC decides to discontinue a product, some may assume it does so in each and every restaurant — both domestically (within the U.S., that is), and abroad. Unfortunately, in the case of chicken wings from KFC? The only customers forced to bear the brunt of its decision to stop selling the bone-in, often sauce-tossed product as of February 2023 appear to be those located inside the U.S.

Now, while we can't necessarily explain why certain international locations appear to still sell chicken wings as of August 2023, the rationale for its discontinuation in U.S. restaurants is actually quite straightforward. In fact, it appears KFC stopped serving chicken wings (and several other previously permanent menu items) as a way to reduce the list of potential menu choices for customers.

A smaller menu simplifies the cooking and preparation process for kitchen staff, allowing them to focus more on quality than quantity — which, in turn, leads to faster service times, happier customers, and less stressed or overworked employees. In other words, even if you're disappointed by KFC discontinuing its chicken wings in the U.S., at least you can appreciate why it did so.

Country-style BBQ Ribs

Fried chicken wasn't the only protein available to customers at Colonel Sanders' original café. Of course, since the man was largely beholden to what was available on any given day, the varied protein selection was more out of necessity than anything else. Hence, diners were often offered beef or pork dishes rather than his soon-to-be famous fried chicken. In that regard, it appears there's some logic behind some of the more unusual former items offered by the chain — though it's just as clear why the country-style BBQ ribs didn't last especially long after their mid-1970s introduction.

Some readers may presume the country-style BBQ ribs' long-term failure was simply a result of producing a poorly made product. While some older consumers have fond memories of KFC's heavily-sauced alternative to chicken, others recall it being a disastrous attempt at authentic barbecue, meaning it was never likely to become a permanent, decades-long fixture on menus.

We're sure if Colonel Sanders himself was the one creating (and serving) us a plate of BBQ ribs, it would be a mouthwatering delight. But, as is often the case with mass-produced fast food items, it's nigh impossible to ensure each individual restaurant puts in the precise care and attention required — particularly for a dish like ribs.

Finger Lickin' Good sauce

We may only be a few years removed from the early months of 2020, yet it feels like decades. The coronavirus quite literally changed the entire world, leaving a legacy of incalculable damage that'll be felt for generations. Some lesser losses from that horrific time period may have gone somewhat unnoticed. Case in point: KFC's Finger Lickin' Good sauce, which was pulled from menus in August 2020 due to its uber-unsanitary name.

Honestly, does anyone need us to explain why the fast food chain decided to discontinue anything that encouraged customers to lick their fingers? In a time when rigorous hand washing and sanitizer use was the norm, you don't need the Hardy Boys to uncover the clearcut rationale for KFC discontinuing a sauce named after its Finger Lickin' Good slogan.

Though the Finger Lickin' Good slogan has been revived since the chain facetiously gave itself the "most inappropriate slogan for 2020" award, the same can't be said for its titular sauce. Instead, KFC introduced a similar (though slightly different) sauce simply known as KFC Sauce in October 2020 as a replacement for its no-longer-offered Finger Lickin' Good Sauce.

Nacho Box

Few aspects of life in the 21st century are more glorious than the presence of fast food restaurants containing both KFC and Taco Bell. Of course, the joys of dining at a so-called Ken-Taco Bell (what a clever portmanteau!) generally come from the ability to mix and match your meal with individual (and distinct) food items from each restaurant. Not that KFC's disastrous Nacho Box (released in Australia locations in early 2014) was a synergistic effort between restaurants, but it sure feels like one.

Quite frankly, if the Nacho Box had been a co-branded product between Yum! Brand subsidiaries, it might have lasted longer. As it was, though, the Nacho Box suffered from a number of glaring issues once customers were able to purchase it. For starters, many early diners were served nachos topped with moldy cheese — a stomach-churning factor that presumably turned off future consumers in the process.

More than that, the haphazard assembly of the KFC Nacho Box meant it didn't remotely resemble what was advertised. Not too long after its introduction, the unevenly dispersed collection of tortilla chips, melted cheese, and popcorn chicken went out with a whimper.

Nashville Hot Chicken

One of the more enjoyable fried chicken styles we've encountered, Nashville hot chicken has deservedly risen from a regional delicacy to a national treasure in the 21st century. Unfortunately for devout followers of the Nashville hot sauce used by KFC — which was served on both tenders and bone-in chicken upon its 2016 introduction — the fast food fried chicken chain decided to nix the menu item in February 2023.

Unlike several other previously offered KFC items we've discussed that were discontinued due to poor sales or negative reception from consumers, the Nashville hot chicken appeared to have a number of fans upon its removal from menus. Still, when the company decided to shrink its menu in order to simplify procedures for its employees, the Nashville hot chicken (and its sauce) was among that handful of items taken from stores.

As is always the case with discontinued food items from any restaurant, really, there's a chance the Nashville hot chicken will one day make a triumphant return to menus across the U.S. In the interim, though, those fans lamenting the loss of this KFC item will have to make do with what's left or simply find another restaurant that offers the pleasurable pain provided by Nashville hot chicken.

Grilled Chicken

If you're ever in doubt regarding what made Kentucky Fried Chicken a global phenomenon, the answer is right there in the name. Clearly, KFC hasn't stuck exclusively to fried chicken during its near-century in business. But, just as clearly, not many of the fast food chain's attempts to expand beyond deep-fried poultry have been particularly successful over time. One prime example of these failed efforts is the now-discontinued grilled chicken, which, well ... can you guess why it didn't last in the long run?

Of course, while some readers may be under the impression KFC's grilled chicken — introduced with great fanfare in 2009 — bombed because it was unappetizing, the somewhat healthier option was actually quite tasty. Then again, the item's quality was never the issue. The main problem (according to many franchisees at the time) seemed to revolve around a failed, exorbitantly expensive ad campaign rollout.

The initial grilled chicken introduction proved so disastrous for certain KFC restaurant owners that a number of them sued KFC's parent company, Yum! Brands, in 2010, after a notable drop in overall sales. KFC grilled chicken was likely doomed from the start. As of 2018,  it seemed to have vanished from menus around the U.S.

Scoff-ee Cups

On occasion, we've wondered why Kentucky Fried Chicken doesn't offer a wider range of dessert options (outside of its chocolate chip Bundt cake, that is). In our research for this article, it became apparent that KFC has tried (and failed) to expand its after-dinner menu options on occasion. One of its more incredible failures was an ice cream dessert served in an edible Seattle's Best Coffee cup in 2015 — nicknamed the Scoff-ee cup.

Now, if U.S.-based diners don't recall this briefly offered ice cream concoction, there's a good reason: it was only available at U.K. locations. Of course, had the biscuit and white chocolate–centric, edible Scoff-ee cup been a hit with British customers, we're confident it would have made its way across the pond to U.S. restaurants, as well.

Then again, it's entirely possible this menu item was always designed as a short-term marketing gimmick solely intended to boost interest in Seattle's Best Coffee at KFC locations in the U.K. After all, the Scoff-ee cup was introduced concurrently with the actual coffee at restaurants in the nation, meaning the edible dessert's novelty may have been the entire point (and the main reason why it didn't last).

Kentucky Roast Beef

We noted earlier that Colonel Sanders was prone to serve additional meats to customers besides fried chicken at his original restaurant. With that in mind, it wouldn't be entirely shocking to discover the founder of KFC tried his hand in other areas beyond fried chicken restaurants. The brief appearance of Kentucky Beef restaurants — which shuttered all 100 locations within a few years of its 1968 debut — may not have been Colonel Sanders' personal idea.

Regardless of who spearheaded the creation of KRB (as it was colloquially known), the logistics of a roast beef–focused fast-food chain appeared to be too much to overcome at that time. In fact, whether or not KFC's corporate cousin offered a tasty product was largely irrelevant, as the immense difficulties with cooking and serving a generally slow-roasted meat in a quick-service style were too cumbersome to resolve.

While most folks have likely forgotten about Kentucky Roast Beef (or never knew it existed in the first place), it's still an interesting relic from the company's past. Seeing how KFC has only continued to blossom since KRB closed all locations in 1970, it's clear the company has no regrets — and no one was crying over spilled roast beef.

AIR Kentucky Fried Chicken

Other countries have potentially surprising views of certain fast food restaurants, particularly when compared to the typical U.S. point of view. In that sense, while KFC is hardly the sort of meal many Americans would view as appropriate for a holiday feast, it's been a Christmas day tradition for many in Japan for decades. Japanese residents don't just enjoy KFC on the holiday, and for a brief period beginning in 2012, folks traveling with Japan Airlines could even nosh on its fried chicken while flying around the world.

To be sure, the optics of offering Kentucky Fried Chicken alongside other options like lobster ravioli and foie gras may make U.S. patrons giggle (and understandably so!). Knowing the restaurant is held in generally higher esteem in Japan than its birth nation, there's a certain logic to Japan Airlines' decision to include KFC as a winter in-flight meal option in 2012 and 2013.

If there was a specific reason why AIR Kentucky Fried Chicken was no longer available on Japan Airlines flights after 2013, we weren't able to find it. Perhaps it was merely a matter of lacking quality, though. After all, since flight attendants weren't deep-frying thighs and breasts while in the air, it's sort of easy to see how a reheated plate of KFC may have been a letdown for any airborne travelers and was no longer worth the effort for either party over time.

Original Recipe Boneless Chicken

Quick: What's the difference between KFC's short-lived Original Recipe boneless chicken and the fast food chain's boneless chicken tenders? Beyond the shape and general size of each menu item, there seemed to be little to no variation between the two. Seeing how the Original Recipe boneless chicken essentially failed to justify its very existence, then, it's not entirely shocking to learn it didn't last long at restaurants.

We're sure KFC's Original Recipe boneless chicken — which was eventually, and briefly, offered as Extra Crispy, as well — was a phenomenal product on its own (since it was still a fried chicken product from KFC). But, the weird hybrid between bone-in chicken and boneless chicken tenders wasn't appealing enough to convert devoted fans from either of KFC's already available menu items.

Additionally, the painfully unfunny commercial accompanying its 2013 launch where a father panics about having eaten "the bones" in his KFC bucket likely did the item no favors. After a year or so on the market, Kentucky Fried Chicken pulled its boneless chicken from stores in 2014 with seemingly no intentions of bringing it back down the line.

Double Down Dog

As you've likely noticed throughout this article, the majority of KFC items that didn't last failed to thrive after an extended opportunity to do so. This wasn't the case of the alliteratively alluring Double Down Dog, which was served in a bun ... made of fried chicken? Customers were only given a single, solitary day to sample this patently bizarre relative to the restaurant's oft-loved and occasionally maligned Double Down sandwich (another KFC creation that's never found a permanent place on menus).

If any U.S. consumers are baffled by this decidedly un-KFC-like product and unsure when the Double Down Dog disappeared from menus, it's actually quite simple. After all, the Double Down Dog was never released in the U.S. and was always intended as a short-term, limited-time promotion for KFC diners in the Philippines.

Considering this extremely limited-time KFC menu item was always intended to burn out quickly (rather than fade away), some may take issue with its inclusion in this article. Since we still think about this fried chicken-wrapped hot dog from time to time, we felt it more than merited a spot, whether it was intended to last after all 50 Double Down Dogs were sold or not.