Sunday, June 21, 2009
Louisville has been a key United Parcel Service hub and HQ to a whisky distilling company and Kentucky Fried Chicken for several years. A few years ago KFC joined with the restaurant chains that Pepsi formerly owned (Pizza Hut, Taco Bell, Long John Silvers, A&W) and formed Yum! Brands still located in the old KFC complex. Soon after I moved to Louisville, my colleague Ida got me on a list to do taste tests in the Yum! research lab, usually of chicken. When called, you're asked a bunch of questions to see if you qualify. Vincent - now 18 and eligible in principle - recently failed because he was honest and said he hadn't eaten at KFC for ages. I originally went partly with an eye to seeing market research in action - including taking a version of a Web survey in the lab - when I was just becoming familiar with Web surveys. For a standard taste test, you now get paid $20 and get a free lunch. To get there and back and do the test it takes a little more than an hour. Stephanie has also done a two-hour focus group - for which she got paid more - and so both she and I have been part of Yum! rolling out healthier, non-fried food at Long John Silver's and KFC. Several weeks ago - at the start of the summer, when I don't need to come home to walk the dog every day - I taste tested some KFC grilled chicken and barbecue. This was an easier taste test to square with Weight Watchers - though I have taste tested salads for KFC. Usually, you're given two to four different prototypes of something, asked to rate each sample on a bunch of criteria, and then also asked in the end which you prefer and why. It's supposed to be pretty secret. So - pictured above is the outside of the back end of the HQ where the research lab is located - and below is the waiting room. I figured it was too risky to take a picture of the actual lab, where we each walk to a bar where we get samples from the kitchen and then each return to our computer to eat and start answering questions. Many people don't eat that much of the food but I usually eat most of it (a little less if it's REALLY not good for me).