Before the introduction of American fast-food chains in the early 1970s, most New Zealand families would have fish 'n chips takeaways once a week.
Going out for a meal in the provinces at least normally meant having steak and chips. Chicken, steak and Coca-Cola consumed at home were usually kept for special occasions.
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The recent reduction of Covid-19 restrictions to level 3 (which some have dubbed "level 3 with KFC") has seen queues for takeaways at KFC outlets probably not seen since the brand's introduction to New Zealand.
Colonel Sanders, whose real name was Harland David Sanders (1890-1980), was a distinctive-looking man from the US South who in 1930 became a Shell Oil Company franchisee. To help sales during the Great Depression he sold steak, ham and fried chicken he had developed with his own secret recipe of 11 herbs and spices.
His chicken became so popular he opened a restaurant to sell his chicken. Such was its success, in 1935 he was named a Kentucky colonel by Governor Ruby Laffoon – hence Col Sanders. The honour was repeated in 1950 by Governor Lawrence Wetherby.
However, a new highway diverted traffic away from his businesses, and at age 65 in 1955 (a story in resilience in itself), he closed up his business and travelled across the United States cooking his 11 herbs and spices chicken in restaurants, getting a commission for each piece sold.
By 1964, he had franchised his chicken recipe to 600 outlets in United States and Canada and sold his company, but continued to be involved in the business. His image is still prominently displayed to this day in 23,000 restaurants throughout 140 countries.
Hastings's J Wattie Canneries, founded by James Wattie in 1934, had merged with General Foods in 1968.
It would be General Foods and Universal Management Limited who brought Kentucky Fried Chicken to New Zealand when the first store opened in 1971 in Auckland. The two companies wanted to "repeat one of America's greatest post-war business success stories". General Foods owned Tegel Foods, the country's largest supplier of chickens.
Kentucky Fried Chicken came to Hastings on April 3, 1974, and Hawke's Bay had never seen anything like it.
Free balloons were offered to children and the opening was broadcast by a radio station.
Many from Hawke's Bay had already had a taste of it while visiting Auckland – some even driving to Auckland just for the Kentucky Fried Chicken.
Queues formed for the individual, family, or party-sized fried chicken takeaway packs at the Stortford Lodge location (the first store was closer to the roadway and had no restaurant). The menu also contained coleslaw, mixed bean salad, whipped potato and gravy, hot rolls and cold refreshments. Apparently two pieces of chicken cost 80 cents (2020: $8.90) an $1.50 ($16.70) for a three-piece box plus chips.
When I say queues, those who witnessed the opening saw people lining up past Peter Dunkerley's pharmacy and the former Europa service station on Pakowhai Rd. Others remember queues going in the other direction to Allerton St. Apparently, the queues at the time broke Kentucky Fried Chicken records.
Once inside, a red rail formed the queue, and a lady took the cash (no eftpos then of course) and loudly pronounced the ready orders into a microphone. There was a hatch behind her, and a nameless hand slid the orders out.
The packaging in distinctive red-and-white stripes was very robust and was taken by some children to school to "show off where you had been". Tallies were taken in some primary schools of the times your family had tucked into Kentucky Fried.
The Hastings Kentucky Fried Chicken store has had many alterations over the years but remains in a similar location to its 1974 opening. Hastings company J C Mackersey Limited (now MCL Construction) was involved in many of the alterations (and at other locations).
Kentucky Fried Chicken changed its name to KFC in 1991.
KFC in New Zealand is now operated by Restaurant Brands, which operates more than 100 KFC stores in New Zealand. They purchased the New Zealand and KFC and Pizza Hut operations in 1997 from PepsiCo Inc.
Pizza Hutt arrived in New Zealand in September 1974, and came to Hastings, if I recall correctly, in the early to mid-1980s.
MacDonald's Corporation opened its first store in 1976 in Porirua – its ninth overseas market at the time. This location was chosen because it had plenty of families with young children.
The MacDonald's restaurant in Hastings opened in 1984, and was built by J C Mackersey Limited, who had owned the land. Such was the relationship, Mackersey's built other MacDonald's restaurants around the North Island.
• Michael Fowler (firstname.lastname@example.org) is a contract researcher, commercial business writer of Hawke's Bay history.