More chickens are coming home to roost in Whitesburg.
A franchise company with KFC and other restaurants all over eastern Kentucky, West Virginia and Ohio will begin construction on a new restaurant in the west end of town this spring. Whitesburg Fire Chief Perry Fowler, who issues building permits for all new construction, said the restaurant will be a KFC, marking a return of the Kentucky-based chicken chain to Whitesburg after a nearly three-decade absence.
Tommy Stansberry operated a Kentucky Fried Chicken in Parkway Plaza, but the restaurant closed in the early 1990s, and has not been in Whitesburg since. The nearest locations are in Wise, Va., Big Stone Gap, Va., and Hazard.
An auto body shop separates the property where the new KFC will be located from Taco Bell on KY 15 at Whitco Hill.
A deed for the property was filed Monday by Knipp Brothers LLC of Ashland. C. Douglas Knipp and Barry Lee Knipp bought three KFC restaurants in the Ashland area in 1999, and now own 23 KFCs in the Kentucky/Ohio/West Virginia area under the name Tri State Food Systems Inc.
The brothers also operate Steak N Shakes and other restaurants.
The restaurant in Whitesburg is expected be a modern design built for the COVID age. With the pandemic and mandatory restaurant closings, KFC sales to dining-in customers have dropped precipitously, while carryout sales have boomed.
“KFC U.S. drive-thru sales grew 60 percent in Q3 2020 compared to a year ago, and recently hit a delivery milestone with 80 percent of KFC’s in the U.S. delivering through multiple delivery aggregator partners,” a KFC news release reads. “With the increase in online ordering, delivery and drive-thru, the new design will take the stress out of the ordering process for both KFC restaurant employees and customers.”
KFC announced the newly designed restaurants in December. They emphasize minimal food handling, curbside service, and drive-through windows.
Earth moving is expected to begin soon, with the new restaurant opening before summer.