Kentucky Grilled Chicken is on its way nationwide

LOUISVILLE — KFC, the fast-food chain known for fried chicken, plans to introduce a new grilled chicken option across the country next year in hopes of lifting lagging U.S. sales.

David C. Novak, chairman and CEO of KFC's parent, Yum Brands Inc., revealed plans for a second-quarter rollout of the grilled item during an investment conference in New York on Wednesday.

KFC is pinning much of its hopes for a U.S. turnaround on Kentucky Grilled Chicken, which will hit nationwide stores with the longest market test in KFC history.

"This product will be a major transformational product for us," Novak told analysts.

KFC has introduced grilled products in the past but couldn't sustain an initial sales upturn because of operational or marketing factors, Novak said. He predicted this rollout will have lasting, positive results.

"We have a winning concept," Novak said.

Novak singled out KFC's sluggish U.S. performance in assessing Yum Brands' worldwide fast-food network, which also includes Taco Bell, Pizza Hut, Long John Silver's and A&W All-American Food.

KFC hopes the grilled chicken will appeal to health-conscious consumers, allowing the chain to "overcome the key barrier of being a fried-only concept," Novak said.

Another KFC initiative planned next year is a national value menu with products ranging from 99 cents to $1.99, Novak said.