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Published on May 8th, 2018 | by Emergent Enterprise


KFC Virtual Reality: The Hard Way

Over 20,500 locations in more than 125 countries. That’s how many Kentucky Fried Chicken outlets there are in the world. And in each KFC there are people that need to know how to cook that Original Recipe® chicken in the exact, correct way. That’s a big challenge. Training for any enterprise, no matter what the industry, needs to be accurate and consistent and to effectively reflect the brand of the company. At the same time, the training needs to “stick” so that what is learned is remembered at the time the task needs to be executed. So, imagine if you have 20,000+ cooks, both newly hired or existing employees, that need to be trained to cook chicken just like The Colonel would cook it.

In mid-February 2018, I had a chat with Jonathan Minori, a Design Director for W+K Lodge in Portland, Oregon, who has spearheaded a very unique approach for providing a glimpse into what goes into making Kentucky Fried Chicken. As a supplement to a larger effort that includes traditional training approaches, W+K Lodge developed a virtual reality game called “The Hard Way” that is certainly unlike anything that’s been developed for restaurant staff in the world. Think the movie Saw with a video game BioShock environment and add an escape room game format. Doesn’t sound like the training you had at your local fast food restaurant?  Here’s how it came about and why it works.


With proven training approaches available, how does an idea like this even get considered?

Jonathan: W+K has a track record of using creative storytelling within emerging technologies like augmented and virtual reality to help our clients reach their audiences in new ways. The KFC virtual reality training is a good example of that. KFC wanted to give people a glimpse into what goes into making their world famous fried chicken, and we wanted to help create excitement for the brand.

What was the original business problem/opportunity you wanted to solve?

We saw an opportunity to tell a “food story.” Kentucky Fried Chicken is prepared fresh and must be done in a specific process and it’s a “doing” process. VR technology would allow the participant to virtually “do” the steps correctly and in the right order. But we asked the question, “How do we tell the story in a very interesting way?” We wanted to tell the story through the eyes of an employee but we didn’t just want to mirror reality which we thought would be boring.

We took a trip to Louisville and learned how to cook the chicken ourselves. We needed to understand the steps completely so we could stay true to the process. We also learned a lot about the Colonel and how he was obsessive about the quality of his product and we knew we wanted to make him a central character. He was almost Willy Wonka-like. The VR game began to emerge from there.

Did you build a particular audience persona for this project? Were you aiming for a specific demographic?

Our target audience was pulled from the brand audience. This supplement to their comprehensive training program was meant to fit in the current branding campaign that is being delivered through commercials and social media like Instagram. The experience was built for a particular age group who is comfortable with the VR game format and consuming information in an experiential way.

We were approaching this more as entertainment and gaming and not training. We wanted a sense of irreverence with the story wrapped in a fun narrative.

Did you use any design thinking methodology in your development?

My engineering partner Ryan Kee, our producer Teresa Lai, and I put together a team and developed everything in house. We started in February with an end date in July. We broke the tasks into two-week sections with client feedback all along the way. For instance, we started with robotic hands but it was decided that we shouldn’t suggest that the chicken is made by machines. They were always keeping us honest for accuracy. We had the client buy a headset so they could see iterations during progress.

We started with a script and then a storyboard. We did some quick prototypes with crude 3D models in Cinema 4D and the final product was developed in Unity for Oculus Rift.

What have been the results? What kind of feedback are you getting from your users?

Feedback has been overwhelmingly positive. The client was pleased the story was being told in a new and interesting way and that it also captured the aesthetic of the campaign. And, we received coverage for “The Hard Way” from press that would normally never cover us.

But, also keep in mind that we didn’t mind hearing an occasional, “I don’t get this at all,” which is in keeping with the current branding, too. The game is not just for trainees as you can find it in the Oculus Store. It is getting very good numbers for branded content.

Photo Source: wklodge.com


A special thank you to Jonathan Minori and W+K Lodge for sharing their story about “The Hard Way.”

About Wieden+Kennedy

Wieden+Kennedy, founded in Portland, Oregon, in 1982, is an independent, privately held global creative company with offices in Amsterdam, Delhi, London, New York City, Portland, São Paulo, Shanghai, and Tokyo. Wieden+Kennedy works with some of the world’s most innovative brands, including AB InBev, Airbnb, Anki, Coca-Cola, Delta Air Lines, Facebook, Honda, Instagram, Mondelēz, Nike, Procter & Gamble, Samsung, and Spotify.

Wieden+Kennedy was recently honored as Adweek’s Global Agency of the Year, Ad Age’s Agency of the Year, and Fast Company’s Most Innovative Company in Marketing and Advertising.

© 2018 emergent-enterprise.com

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Scott McCormick  //  emergent-enterprise.com 


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Emergent Enterprise

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