KFC amends free chicken deal after Oprah promo

Oprah Winfrey, chairman of Harpo Inc. and host of "The Oprah Winfrey Show", poses as she arrives for a breakfast honoring women in Beverly Hills, California December 5, 2008. REUTERS/Fred Prouser

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - The Oprah Winfrey-fueled free chicken give-away that caused pandemonium this week at Kentucky Fried Chicken restaurants has been amended due to what the fast-food chain called an “overwhelming response.”

Roger Eaton, president of KFC in the United States, said restaurants would no longer immediately redeem the free coupons for its new grilled chicken meal after Oprah’s chat show promotion caused long lines around the nation.

“The lines of customers wanting to redeem their coupons have been out the door and around the block, so we’re unable to redeem customer coupons at this time.” Eaton said in a statement issued late Thursday.

KFC said millions of Americans had downloaded free coupons after the offer was featured on “The Oprah Winfrey Show” and Web site on Tuesday, driving traffic to levels unseen in the brand’s 50-year history.

Eaton apologized to customers for the changes to the scheme and said those who already had a coupon could get a rain check form to enable them to use it at a later date.

Winfrey, 55, is regarded as the most influential woman on U.S. television, driving popular opinion in areas such as books, pop culture and even politics through her support for Barack Obama’s presidential campaign.

Louisville, Kentucky-based KFC has more than 15,000 outlets in 80 countries around the world, and its corporate parent is Yum! Brands Inc.

Reporting by Jill Serjeant