KFC wants to grill its cooks in a virtual escape kitchen

KFC has combined VR and an escape room in its latest experience.

KFC is enhancing its cook training program by using virtual reality (VR) to make Colonel Sanders’ still-secret Original Recipe chicken in what it called a more hands-on modern way.

The Hard Way – a KFC Virtual Training Escape Room is in fact an escape kitchen where participants are guided through the process of preparing KFC chicken – including the 11 secret herbs and spices Sanders once scratched out on the back of his kitchen door. A virtual Sanders is on hand to make sure participants make his chicken the Hard Way, which KFC said is the method he invented more than 70 years ago.

Participants must successfully complete the five main steps – inspecting, rinsing, breading, racking and pressure frying – in order to escape the kitchen. The gamified experience takes about ten minutes, which is less than half of the 25-minute process in real-life KFC kitchens.

KFC said it will use the VR simulation to supplement its employee training program, Chicken Mastery Certification, which it says provides detailed e-learning and hands-on training for cooks in its kitchens. KFC will also bring the VR simulation to its regional general manager training classes, quarterly franchise meetings and employee onboarding at its headquarters in Louisville, Kentucky.

“In 1940, the Colonel was just one man frying chicken by hand. Now we have nearly 19,000 trained cooks across the US, but they’re still doing it by hand,” said George Felix, director of advertising for KFC US, in a statement. “Our cooking process hasn’t changed much in 70 years, but the way we can train our cooks using modern technology sure has."

Thanks to the game mechanics and a “meticulous Colonel,” KFC said its VR tool is a fun and interactive add-on.

“What excites us is experimenting with new tools and mediums to tell stories. VR became an obvious choice to create an immersive experience that teaches trainees how to make KFC’s Original Recipe,” said Jonathan Minori, design director at Wieden+Kennedy’s creative technology group, W+K Lodge, in a statement. “The escape room concept builds on the pure training and utility of the experience into something that’s also entertaining and connected to KFC’s iconic founder.”

The Virtual Training Escape Room was designed for the Oculus platform using the Rift headset and Touch controllers.

While a number of publications called it a “VR nightmare” – and “finger-licking frightening," The Drum’s take was more innocuous. Perhaps the scariest part was handling raw chicken, but KFC provided gloves, as well as hairnets and aprons with KFC-cook-in-training name badges.

VR thrillseekers might be disappointed, but, as noted, the point of the experience is more to put a fun spin on chef training, so it stands to reason thrills are limited while preparing virtual chicken.

Although, to be fair, the YouTube clips arguably make it appear more ominous than it really is.

Only one way to find out though.

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