Louisville-based KFC is relaunching in Israel for the fourth time, but this time its restaurants will not be kosher.
The first branch is set to open this month in the Arab city of Nazareth, in northern Israel, Israel’s Mako news reported.
Negotiations are underway for dozens of other branches throughout the country, according to the report.
But the restaurants won’t be kosher, said Omer Zeidner, head of KFC Israel, in response to written questions from Community. KFC’s recipe is not kosher, he said, nor does the company have kosher restaurants anywhere in the world.
“We will listen to the market demands and will certainly consider future options as we expand our presence,” he said.
KFC has tried kosher restaurants in Israel before. In its last incarnation there, franchise owner Udi Shamai’s eight locations went kosher after the company allowed him to switch the milk powder in the crispy coating to soy and to use chickens slaughtered by kosher methods instead of those provided by the company.
“The moment we switched to kosher, sales began to plunge and it was no longer economically viable,” Shamai told Globes in February. “The product was less good, whereas things had gone fine with unkosher chickens.”
Zeidner said KFC tries to maintain the same product standard wherever it does business.
“One of the key lessons learned from KFC’s experience in Israel is to not settle on taste,” he said. “This is by no means an ideological choice. We simply want to offer the best tasting experience for our customers.”
Kentucky Fried Chicken opened and closed in Israel in the 1980s and the ’90s, and then remained open between 2003 and 2012.
The company has 23,000 outlets in at least 141 countries, including six outlets in three West Bank Palestinian cities.
Zeidner said the decision to reenter the Israeli fast food market with non-kosher restaurants “was taken after a long and in-depth market study that examined the potential of the Israeli market and local preferences.
“Our focus is to ensure that as we launch our restaurants, the menu options are exactly the same as they are in other markets,” he said. “Israelis enjoy KFC when they travel abroad and are looking for the same freshly prepared tasty KFC at home in Israel.”
JTA contributed to this story.