KFC is taking airplane food to a whole new level, pairing with Japan Airlines to serve its fast-food chicken on holiday flights between Tokyo and eight U.S. and European destinations.
The chain's Japanese operation will provide a meal of a drumstick, chicken breast, flat bread, coleslaw and "special mayonnaise" to passengers on select trips out of Narita Airport from Dec. 1 through Feb. 28.
The so-called Air Kentucky trays will be served during the second mealtime in the premium-economy and economy-class sections of planes bound for Los Angeles, San Diego, New York, Boston, Chicago, London, Paris and Frankfurt.
Japan is a voracious consumer of American fast food, often with a twist. Franchisees in the Asian market have launched caviar, lobster and foie gras burgers (Wendy's) and black and pumpkin burgers (Burger King). KFCs in Japan are currently offering a special American-style Christmas menu complete with cake and champagne.
As of last year, however, Japan has far fewer fast-food restaurants per capita than many other nations, with just 0.13 establishments for every 100,000 people. The ratio in the U.S. is 7.52 per 100,000 people.
Companies such as Yum Brands Inc., which owns KFC, are now pushing into emerging markets elsewhere in Asia. Developing countries such as China, where Yum plans to open 750 new units this year, account for about 60% of the business' profits.
It took Yum 17 years to open 1,000 KFC outposts in China after inaugurating the first in 1987. But in the last two years, the company has gone from having 3,000 KFCs in China to 4,000.