The Kentucky Fried Chicken at 266 North El Camino Real closed abruptly last week. The signage and familiar KFC logos were removed overnight.
“I got to work and they were just gone,” said an employee of Chipotle, next door.
KFC put one flyer in the window and on a barricade blocking the drive-thru. It thanked customers for the years of support and encouraged lovers of KFC to go to the other nearby locations.
A post on an “old school” Encinitas Facebook page by local realtor Lydell Fleming, was the first to state the location is slated to become a drive-thru Starbucks. Fleming searched but couldn’t find additional information as to why the KFC location closed.
As reported here in May of 2015, the raising of lease rates as a way to force out longtime, locally owned businesses has been happening all over the city, along the El Camino Real corridor and Coast Highway 101. Landlords of strip malls are looking to increase revenue by going with more upscale retailers and restaurants.
So it is speculated that the landlords of the Vons/Camino Village Plaza shopping center forced KFC out by an excessive lease increase. Starbucks' thousands of locations are corporate-owned and thus have much deeper financial pockets to be profitable with higher rents than perhaps an individual KFC franchisee.
The city’s planning department hasn’t heard of plans for a Starbucks yet. “If they are going to change the outside structure, then they’ll need a use permit which will require a public hearing,” said the planning official. “But isn’t there already a Starbucks in Vons?” he questioned.
The now-vacant location may be one of those difficult — as in jinxed — locations. While KFC operated for a long time, it also used to be an Arby’s and a Long John Silvers. In the same parking lot, next door, is Chipotle, which used to be a Boston Market.
Unless Starbucks plans to scrape the location and redesign, KFC’s parking lot has some challenges for what would become a busy drive-thru. Abnormal access points with restricted right- and left-hand turns restrict easy entrance, and the drive’s curvature is too tight for many larger vehicles. The building was constructed long before city regulations would have required better traffic flow.
Numerous attempts by phone or email to get comments from the franchisee, KFC’s district manager, KFC’s parent corporation, Yum! Brands’ media relations, and the center’s leasing agent were unsuccessful.