Free Bird

By Joann Plockova

Photos by Mark Steele

In Marietta, Ga., a design refresh to a landmark restaurant was a tall order—literally. Opened in 1963, the flagship Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC) is home to the “Big Chicken,” a 56-ft.-tall chicken sculpture (with rolling eyeballs and a beak that opens and closes) that is incorporated into the architecture and is a staple icon to Atlanta natives.

“[We leveraged] the monumental scale of the Big Chicken, while tying back to the modern aspects of the KFC brand and the spirit of the Colonel,” says Aaron Ruef, director of specialty retail design at FRCH Design Worldwide, the firm behind the update.

Big, bold graphics set the tone, while crafted finishes speak to the brand’s hardworking roots. Heightened exterior glazing and raised ceilings bring in light and align with the volume of the gigantic bird. Wood beams and exposed brick, along with picnic tables and new porches, bring in warmth, a family feel and the brand’s association with Southern hospitality.

But it’s the Big Chicken and a statue of Colonel Sanders that take center stage. Custom vintage style artwork honors both, while the Colonel has his “The Original Celebrity Chef” wall.

“This project is a holistic expression of two beloved icons,” Ruef says. “One in the Big Chicken and one in the Colonel, creating a truly one-of-a-kind experience for the brand.”

The Big Chicken lives on!


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