Harland Sanders was a genuine innovator in fast food, but it’s doubtful the Colonel could have ever envisioned KFC’s newest training method: a virtual reality experience entitled “The Hard Way – A KFC Virtual Training Escape Room” and narrated by a digital apparition of the white-haired chicken mogul himself. We got to experience this escape room for ourselves yesterday, armed with a hearty appetite and a taste for the Colonel’s classic Kentucky kitsch.
Experience designer Jonathan Minori and his team from Weiden+Kennedy have been working on this technology for KFC for well over a year. The simulation takes trainees through a “hands-on” cooking experience in a virtual KFC prep kitchen with a very real goal in mind: to ensure that employees are still making the chain’s signature Original Recipe chicken by hand — the Hard Way.
It’s pretty unusual for a company as massive as KFC to maintain the same cooking techniques through over 70 years in the biz. But KFC has always touted its connection to its history, and the simulation doubles as a sort of virtual shrine to Sanders, the chain’s mythologized founder.
Bob Das, KFC’s corporate chef, introduced The Daily Meal’s staff to the experience at a launch event in New York City. After geeking out in a room filled with vintage KFC memorabilia – from the original finger lickin’ good buckets to the old-school pink striped uniforms worn by long-ago employees — we were led into the VR booths, where a cheeky, gruff voiced Colonel Sanders nudged us through KFC's sacred five-step process.
We couldn’t leave the virtual kitchen before mastering the Colonel’s craft of inspecting, breading, racking, and pressure-frying his precious chicken. The process takes about 25 minutes in real time, but modern technology allowed us this privilege in no less than 10 — and believe me, the pressure was on! Alas, after we completed our training we were not rewarded with the Original Recipe blend of 11 herbs and spices, which has been under lock and key since the company’s inception in 1930. But we did walk away with a strange sense of pride in having satisfied the virtual Colonel’s wheezy demands — and I’d take that over an employee handbook any day.
Das, who has been with the innovative company going on 17 years, was thrilled to introduce the fresh experience to his team. The chain hopes that bringing VR into the kitchen will encourage trainees (and younger employees in particular) to appreciate and enjoy the cooking process through a more exciting medium.