KFC South Africa have been forced to deny rumours that they’ve fallen victim to an elaborate chicken con after a controversial story exploded across the internet this week. Reports from several prominent media outlets suggested that a student had been arrested for impersonating a member of the chain’s executive team in a bid to win free meals and curry special treatment from unwitting staff. Now however, it seems that there is some doubt over the legitimacy of the story.
According to the original source, which soon went viral thanks to coverage from outlets such as The Daily Mail, an unnamed 27-year-old man managed to con the fast food franchise for over a year, using disguises and a false identity as cover. Reports soon began circulating that the “perpetrator” was a student of KwaZulu Natal University who had covered his tracks by wearing smart clothing and arriving at KFC restaurants in a limousine. It was this, reporters alleged, that enabled him to get away with claiming free food for over a year.
Unsurprisingly given the nature of the story, the unidentified fraudster soon became a sensation on social media. Thousands of people took to the internet to voice their support, with several hailing him as a “legend”. @deansleckie wrote, in a tweet that has been liked almost 1,000 times, that “He should be knighted, not arrested!”, while @LeeKirichu suggested the chain should “employ him”. So intense was the public interest that KFC were forced to respond.
Much to everyone’s disappointment, the franchise revealed that the entire story was “fake”, revealing to their followers that, "As legendary as it would be we can confirm that this is false. We haven't kept the secret recipe 'secret' for this long, only to be duped by a student." This was confirmed by KFC Africa's public affairs director, Thabisa Mkhwanazi, in an interview with Insider, who stated that "We follow strict operational processes," Mkhwanazi said. "Any unauthorized individuals posing as KFC team members in our restaurants and head office would have been picked up immediately."
The source of the rumour appears to be an uncorroborated tweet from journalist @teddyeugene, who wrote on May 12th, “South African man arrested for eating at KFC free for a year by saying head office sent him to taste if they are up to standard.” This original tweet has been liked nearly 70,000 times on the platform. However, from this tenuous piece of information, other outlets soon began elaborating, leading to a situation where the internet quickly became convinced that a master KFC criminal had been at large.
There’s no denying that the idea of conning a fast food giant out of a year’s supply of chicken is a myth that we’d all like to believe. A brave student sticking it to the man in the most delicious way imaginable is a story we can all get behind. Sadly, however, it looks like the KFC “theft” serves as little more than a warning to keep an eye out for foodie fake news. You can never be sure where it might pop up.