REXBURG — Restoration work on a local Kentucky Fried Chicken restaurant proved to be more than a headache for the company in charge of the repair work.
Jared Lusk, regional sales manager for SERVPRO, said he’d been getting calls from local citizens complaining that SERVPRO was taking too long to fix up the restaurant, which had closed in September due to a grease fire.
“We’ve had a lot of feedback that we’re going too slow, that we’re a horrible company because we can’t get things done fast,” Lusk told the Standard Journal. “It’s kind of a shocker. People are passionate about their chicken, a lot more than I anticipated.”
On Sept. 22 a grease fire caused damage to the kitchen and smoke damage to the dining area. The equipment losses were estimated at the time to be around $200,000. SERVPRO was asked to come in two months later and fix up the KFC restaurant, with an estimated completion calendar of 90 days.
“We were set to fulfill that,” Lusk said. “We worked on that task from the beginning of December. It took about 6 weeks.”
During that time SERVPRO vehicles and cleaning equipment surrounded the KFC building. The restaurant’s street sign told passing drivers that it was closed, yet still, Lusk said, people walked inside as customers.
“We were having people come in while we were actively working on the renovation and ordering chicken,” he said.
Then the situation began to change.
“Everything was going along smoothly until we were told by one of the KFC franchise owners to hold off after mitigating the fire damage,” Lusk said.
Lusk said it seemed odd that they were told to only repair the fire damage instead of doing a full restoration.
“We had all our contractors and men all ready to go, hammers and nails in hand, when we got the call to hold off,” he said. “It’s hard to be in a place where we were told we had 90 days, and then we’re told to stop everything.”
That’s when the complaints from the community came pouring in.
“Some have just wanted to know what was going on, while others were demeaning and making us feel responsible for it not being up and running. But here we are stuck in the middle,” he said, adding that though he didn’t classify the attacks as harassment, it still did damage to SERVPRO’s reputation.
While the repair work was being done, a deal was being developed by the building’s owner to sell the location. Once the deal was made, Lusk said, all work stopped. He also said he was told by the franchise’s upper management that KFC would not be returning to the building.
That didn’t stop the lower level of the franchise’s management from calling Lusk, demanding to know why the renovation work had stopped.
“We had to tell one of the KFC representatives that we were stopping because their management didn’t tell them they wanted us to stop the project,” he said. “It was a bit of miscommunication.”
Eventually, however, it became clear that KFC was gone for good.
“They then realized they weren’t going back in,and then had their own people pull their own stuff out and vacating the building,” Lusk said.
Even with the miscommunication, Lusk said he doesn’t think the whole fiasco is really anyone’s fault.
“I’m not trying to point fingers at the franchise, but it feels like this damaged our reputation a bit,” he said. “We don’t want to blame them since the building sold out from underneath them.”
It is not yet known exactly what business will be filling the space that was once KFC. Lusk did say that a new restaurant was going in.
“We heard the potential of another franchise coming in, but nothing more than that,” he said.
KFC’s franchise owners were unavailable for comment. Messages sent to KFC’s corporate office were not returned.