It’s a finger-lickin’ tradition in southeast Saskatchewan, but now the Weyburn KFC may have to stop offering an all-you-can-eat buffet.
Reports that the rare KFC buffet may be ending started a viral uproar on social media as people like Jay Onrait of Fox Sports One and Saskatchewan politicians jumped on the bandwagon in favour of keeping it. Weyburn Mayor Debra Button and Health Minister Dustin Duncan both have fond memories of the buffet, saying they even got their first jobs there in high school.
Larie Semen is the “area coach” or regional manager for the KFC in Weyburn and has been with the company and the location since about 1978. He says Weyburn was the first place to offer a buffet starting in 1988 now it is one of only two locations in Canada, including one in Humboldt.
Now customers are planning to crowd the chain restaurant on Wednesday at noon to match up with a reported visit from the corporate office of Yum Canada which owns the chain and is based in Toronto.
He said the corporate head office wanted to shut down the buffet four years ago, but he started a petition to convince them to keep it open.
He said at the time, the corporation raised the issue of controlling food safety standards for the chain across the country and that it would be difficult in a buffet setting. While he is obviously proud of the safety standards for the chain, he disagreed with the premise of the argument, pointing out that there are KFC buffets in several locations in the U.S.
Semen explained that the Weyburn location was grandfathered in for a deal that would keep the buffet open for the short term. Now the restaurant is due for a remodel and according to Semen, that may spell the end of the buffet.
He said the head office also quietly took off several additional buffet items off the menu for KFC in Weyburn in the past few years, but that hasn’t stopped the customers from coming back.
“Now we’re making the big push on if they keep it that we want to get a lot more items back on our buffet,” Semen said.
Semen said he started spreading the word about a “Save the Buffet” day on Wednesday at noon after learning the small prairie location is getting a rare visit from people with the corporate head office. After asking Weyburn MLA Dustin Duncan for his support, he learned on Tuesday that Premier Brad Wall also tweeted about the cause.
“I didn’t realize it was going to be viral and it has just taken off,” he said. “All I can do is thank the community, thank a lot of our customers from all over Saskatchewan because I get customers from all over Saskatchewan that come just for the buffet, and we’re just so pleased with the support and the overall comments that we’ve been getting to save the buffet.”
The corporate office of KFC Canada sent an emailed statement on Tuesday afternoon saying that it only learned about the Weyburn situation and there are no immediate plans to shut down the buffet. However, the company also clarified that it could not guarantee that it would continue offering the buffet forever, only that it will stay open for now.
The following statement is from Lenoard Free, director, operations and restaurant excellence, KFC Canada.
“Like many people, we were surprised by this news. We can confirm the buffet is not closing.
“It is true, however, that KFC buffets have been closing around the world. As we constantly evolve and find ways to better service our customers, our operations will continue to change. While we cannot guarantee that the Weyburn buffet will remain open forever, we can guarantee that it will be open for now.
“We want to thank everyone who came to the buffet’s defense. It’s nice to know we have an important place in your community and across the country.”
As of Tuesday afternoon, Semen said he had not been informed of any decision about the buffet by the corporate head office. When he heard about the statement that the buffet would stay open, he attributed it to the outcry from customers.
“If that’s the truth, then this is overwhelming for me.”