Restaurant chain KFC Corp. launched its own stimulus package this year with its "Re-Fresh the Streets" contest. The colonel served up thousands in pothole repairs to five U.S. cities in the name of charitable advertising.
In March, KFC President Roger Eaton made headlines by sending letters to city mayors across the country, asking for a description of their streets in exchange for a chance at free pothole restorations by the corporation.
The letter begins: "It is estimated that U.S. roads are riddled with more than 350 million potholes nationwide — that's one for every man, woman, and child in America!" It goes on to say "We at KFC understand that filling every one of these potholes is important and we're here to help!"
Louisville, Ky. — the hometown of KFC — was the first city chosen to receive aid. The fast-food chain provided $3,000 to purchase asphalt, enough to cover approximately 350 potholes during late March. The potholes were then stenciled with a spray-on chalk message: "Re-Freshed by KFC." In keeping with environmentally friendly practices, the chalk wears off with the first rainfall.
The remaining cities, Petaluma, Calif.; Chattanooga, Tenn.; Warren, Ohio; and Topeka, Kan. were chosen at random in April, and each received similar donations for the patching. Due to scheduling conflicts, the Topeka Transportation Operations Division did not take advantage of the corporate-sponsored patching until late August.
Of course, the few thousand dollars dished out to each of the five cities is just one drop — or drumstick — in the bucket when compared to the amount of potholes most municipalities are tasked to repair. Kerri Richardson, spokesperson both for Louisville's public works department and mayor's office, says the city fills nearly 18,000 potholes each year, with $160,000 budgeted for repairs last year.
According to Topeka's spokesman, David Bevens, the average pothole costs the city $55 — in material and labor — to repair, making the contribution seem miniscule, especially when considering their $770,000 annual budget for repairs. Still, Bevens admits that every little bit helps.
For Petaluma, Calif., the $3,000 allotment represents one day of potholepatching relief, or nearly 40 potholes. The city's winning request was written by Mayor Pamela Torliatt, and in return KFC only asked that one of the funded patch-ups be stamped with their logo.
Not everyone was as charmed by the Kentucky-fried proposition. Brian Steele, spokesman for the Chicago DOT, stated that they do not "allow any type of printing or advertising placed on a city or sidewalk." Animal rights organization PETA also spoke out against it, offering double the amount in pothole repairs to both Louisville and Petaluma if the cities agreed to reject the KFC offer and instead stamp the potholes with "KFC Tortures Animals." Both cities turned down the offer.
Whatever the motive(s) behind the campaign, everyone can agree that, in light of rising asphalt costs and a plundered economy, street rehabilitation that isn't paid out of city pockets is a good thing.