KFC is a fast food brand (also called a QSR, or quick serve restaurant) specializing in chicken. With more than 19,500 units in more than 115 countries and territories, KFC (formerly Kentucky Fried Chicken) is the world’s second largest restaurant chain after McDonald’s measured by sales, and the world’s most popular chicken brand. KFC’s menu has evolved from its legendary Original Recipe pressure fried chicken (“11 herbs and spices”) and side dishes to include grilled chicken, chicken strips, chicken sandwiches, hot wings, and desserts.
KFC was founded by “Colonel” Harland Sanders in Kentucky in 1930 during the Great Depression. The first Kentucky Fried Chicken franchise was opened in Salt Lake City, Utah in 1952 by Pete Harman, who introduced the “Bucket O’Chicken” in 1957. Harman also is credited with the brand’s slogan “It’s finger-lickin’ good.”
KFC Corp. is based in Louisville, Kentucky, and is a subsidiary of Yum! Brands, which also owns Pizza Hut and Taco Bell. Yum! Brands has almost 42,000 restaurants in more than 125 countries and territories, making it one of the world’s largest restaurant companies. Over the years, KFC franchisees have had the option to co-brand with Taco Bell or Pizza Hut.
According to company figures, the KFC system serves more than 12 million customers daily. Most purchases are take out or to-go, although the stores also offer in-store dining. In 2015, Yum! Brands announced that KFC would begin deliveries by 2016, further expanding its reach to customers. KFC engages in extensive marketing to keep the brand in consumers’ minds: KFC claims an average of more than 185 million people see a KFC commercial at least once a week. KFC is also a pioneer in the use of social media to attract and engage customers.
KFC franchisees receive ongoing support through The Yum! Value Network, which offers programs and support that include brand recognition, customer attraction, competitive advantage, franchise value system, multi-unit growth, economic stability, giving back to the community, development expertise, access to financing, solid business support, quality on-boarding and training, a reliable supply chain, and return on investment.
Kentucky Fried Chicken, pioneered by Colonel Harland Sanders, has grown to become one of the largest quick service food service systems in the world - with more than a billion "finger lickin' good" Kentucky Fried Chicken dinners served annually in more than 80 countries and territories. But success didn't come easily.
In 1896 Harland's father died, forcing his mother to enter the workforce to support the family. At the tender age of six, young Harlan was responsible for taking care of his younger siblings and doing much of the family's cooking. A year later he was already a master of several regional dishes. Over the course of the next 30 years, Sanders held jobs ranging from streetcar conductor to insurance salesman, but throughout it all his skill as a cook remained.
The Cook Becomes a Colonel
In 1930, the then 40-year-old Sanders was operating a service station in Corbin, Kentucky, and it was there that he began cooking for hungry travelers who stopped in for gas. He didn't have a restaurant yet, so patrons ate from his own dining table in the station's humble living quarters. It was then that he invented what's called "home meal replacement" - selling complete meals to busy, time-strapped families. He called it, "Sunday Dinner, Seven Days a Week."
As Sanders' fame grew, Governor Ruby Laffoon made him a Kentucky Colonel in 1935 in recognition of his contributions to the state's cuisine. Within four years, his establishment was listed in Duncan Hines' "Adventures in Good Eating."
As more people started coming strictly for the food, he moved across the street to increase his capacity. Over the next decade, he perfected his secret blend of 11 herbs and spices and the basic cooking technique that is still used today.
The Colonel's Cooking Spreads Worldwide
In 1955, confident of the quality of his fried chicken, the Colonel devoted himself to developing his chicken franchising business. Less than 10 years later, Sanders had more than 600 KFC franchises in the U.S. and Canada, and in 1964 he sold his interest in the U.S. company for $2 million to a group of investors including John Y. Brown Jr. (who later became governor of Kentucky).
Under the new owners, Kentucky Fried Chicken Corporation grew rapidly. It went public in 1966, was listed on the New York Stock Exchange in 1969 and eventually was acquired by PepsiCo, Inc. in 1986. In 1997, PepsiCo, Inc. spun-off of its quick service restaurants- including KFC-into an independent restaurant company, Tricon Global Restaurants, Inc. Today, the restaurant company (now YUM! Brands, Inc.), is the world's largest in terms of system units with nearly 32,500 in more than 100 countries and territories.
Until he was fatally stricken with leukemia in 1980 at the age of 90, the Colonel traveled 250,000 miles a year visiting KFC restaurants around the world.