KFC under fire after worker gets warning for not meeting R2 charity donation targets

A union has demanded that the fast-food franchise stop degrading its staff after the incident involving the R2 Add Hope targets, a customer-based donation that goes to nonprofits.

A written warning was recently circulated on social media showing a KFC South Africa employee receiving a warning for failing to “meet the Add Hope target”.

KFC South Africa investigated and found the franchise owner carried out the disciplinary action. They stated on social media that they “firmly oppose the use of the Add Hope programme as a performance measure”.

“All of our franchise partners and staff have been reminded and we will continue to reinforce this message throughout our system through consistent communication and staff training,” KFC South Africa told Daily Maverick.

Worker and union perspectives

Daily Maverick interviewed a former KFC employee, a 36-year-old man who worked at an East London branch for six years. He said there was pressure from management to convince customers to add R2 to their bills.

“Written warnings were only given if your till came up short often, but they would give verbal warnings if you missed the target to add R2 for Hope donations,” he explained. He said if you struggled to convince customers to donate within a month at the cash register you would be transferred to another duty, either preparing chicken or serving.

“There was a lot of pressure to get those R2s. In my branch they would ask why you are missing the target and tell you to get new strategies to get people to pay, such as to ask: ‘How many kids would you like to feed today?’ Customers would be very rude when asked. That’s why most people didn’t like to ask,” he said.

Staff would be reprimanded in front of others, he added. Working conditions in the fast-food industry are notoriously tough, but the poor treatment of staff made things worse.

Another KFC employee, from KwaMashu in KwaZulu-Natal, a 28-year-old woman, told Daily Maverick: “There is always pressure because customers don’t believe the donations get to the underprivileged. It’s only 10% who believe. Customers argue with you… and ask a lot of questions. The management sets daily targets to meet for the R2s, and it is hard to meet those targets.

“The working conditions are hard because we are dealing with people. There is always some sort of drama because of this [R2].”

The Food and Allied Workers’ Union (Fawu), “strongly condemns” the written warning incident.

“It is completely unacceptable and incomprehensible in the first place for the company to demand of employees to reach a specified Add Hope quota, knowing very well that its employees have absolutely no control over customers’ decision to donate or not,” Fawu said.

Although Fawu appreciates the company’s investigation into the specific matter, it “demands that KFC create clear policies and regulations for their partners, management and employees regarding the Add Hope campaign to avoid future embarrassment and degrading treatment of its employees”.

Lesetja Minyku, the national negotiator for the fast-food sector of Fawu, told Daily Maverick: “KFC management expects em­­ployees to reach a target of 30 R2 donations in exchange for a voucher for Shoprite. In other cases the best performers are motivated with ice cream.”

He added that workers in some outlets rejected the warnings for not reaching Add Hope targets. Asked about working conditions, KFC South Africa said it holds “the highest respect for the labour laws… and complies with all government norms and regulations”.

How does the programme work?

The KFC Add Hope 2023 annual report explained that R2 donations, along with KFC’s contributions, go into the KFC Social Responsibility Trust, and are donated to more than 130 nonprofit organisations. The trust is a separate public benefit organisation, and is independently audited by KPMG.

Technically, customers could get a section 18A certificate, an official document that serves as evidence for their R2 donation, which could be tax-deductible. Because you can get this certificate, this proves that the R2 goes to a public benefit organisation, at least according to the revenue service.

“The R2 donations do not go into the KFC bank account. They go straight into the Add Hope Trust bank account. This means that KFC’s company donation never mixes with the R2,” KFC SA told Daily Maverick.

The 2021/22 annual report noted that donations totalled about R103-million, but only R9-million of that appears to have been disbursed by 28 February 2022.

This disbursement is listed as “cash flows from operating activities” and does not specify which amounts go to which charity (or whether these are charitable contributions at all given the generic catch-all language that is used). If indeed 130 nonprofit organisations are supported, they would each receive only about R69,230.

It is also unclear whether this money is used towards creating healthy meals. The Add Hope website says: “It encourages KFC customers to add R2 to their bills so that hungry and malnourished children can be supported with nutritious meals.”

The 2024 Add Hope impact report speaks of “balanced nutritious meals daily with menus developed by dieticians to ensure optimal development of the children”, with no mention of the meal’s actual composition.

Sneaky marketing

A case study of KFC found that the campaign has increased public trust in the brand. 

“It commands awareness levels of over 75% among consumers, which leads to increased affinity for KFC. Consumers say that they’re more likely to buy from KFC because of Add Hope.”

A study comparing the online marketing techniques of food and beverage companies’ websites in six countries has shown that “companies showcase healthier products in wealthier countries and advertise their philanthropic activities in lower-­income countries”.

This means poorer places get fewer healthy options on the menu, but they get marketing that relies on charity-oriented campaigns to entice people to choose them over the competition.

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