KFC is the Fast Food King of Christmas

When news broke earlier this week about KFC partnering with Lifetime to produce a mini-movie starring Mario Lopez as a sexy Colonel Sanders, the internet went nuts. In one move it managed to notch just about every 2020 requirement—extremely dumb, patently absurd, darkly funny, and completely unnecessary.

A Recipe for Seduction is a clear spoof on the corny Lifetime material you’d expect—Lopez, the sexy new cook, has a secret recipe that will change the world. He’s gonna seduce the rich guy’s fiance through sheer charm and culinary genius (but it’s all good because the rich guy is a not-so-subtle jerk who’s having an affair with his fiance’s mom). There’s no reason for this movie to exist outside of the fact that KFC made it happen. And in doing so, they’ve cemented themselves as the fast-food kings of Christmas.

People in the United States don’t normally associate fast food with the holidays. Takeout serves as a nice respite when things get busy, but Christmas is normally a time for comforting home-cooked meals that take hours and maybe even days to prepare—roasts, whole hams, intricate pies, and cakes. But KFC has been moving into the holiday space for years through savvy (and sometimes dumb) marketing. They introduced a fried chicken-scented holiday log in 2017, and it’s been so popular they’re bringing it back for a third straight year. It’s another totally unnecessary item that no one should realistically want, but it got them gobs of press and attention. What’s better than an internet debate over a dumb marketing scheme and the smell of fried chicken?

However, the KFC chicken log dwarfs their marketing ploy in Japan, which has made the company’s fried chicken synonymous with Christmas. Takeshi Okwara, a KFC executive who went on to become the CEO of KFC Japan, had the idea to offer a fried chicken meal around Christmastime. The country didn’t have any kind of Christmas traditions, so fried chicken filled a natural void—now more than 3 million Japanese families eat KFC on Christmas and are forced to wait in long lines if they don’t order their meals well in advance.

It might seem crazy, but KFC’s Christmas relevance makes sense. There are few foods more comforting or more uniquely American than thickly battered fried chicken. It snuck into the top 10 of Taste Atlas’ Most Popular American Foods, and its universality is undeniable (even if its health benefits are). There’s nothing quite like enjoying a fried chicken with every possible side and accoutrement, and no fast-food chain brands that bucket meal mentality better than KFC (even if Popeyes is a little better). So yeah, KFC’s Lifetime movie is an undeniable grift that will probably, somehow, turn out even dumber than it looks. Attention is what’s important this time of year, though, and KFC has managed to capture it, if only for a few days. Although, as good as Mario Lopez looks like Colonel Sanders, he’s still no Reba McEntire.