The funny thing about dreams is there is no expiration date for them. So, you can achieve them at any age. The same is the lesson one can learn from the life of Colonel Harland Sanders, the old friendly-looking man in the iconic white suit and goatee. Funnily, the first KFC franchise was opened when Colonel was 62 years, generally considered retirement age.
Southern Style fried chicken was never a thing back in the 50s. Hamburgers dominated the fast-food industry at the time. But who could resist the scrumptious Colonel’s chicken made with a secret recipe of 11 herbs and spices? Truth be told, still today, nobody can resist it.
As you can see from the infographic, this article is about the history of KFC, its first franchise, and other events since its inception.
Let’s discover the timeline and history of the KFC franchise and some of the main events since then.
Events Before the First KFC Franchise
It started with his mother teaching him to cook at home in the late 19th century. Sanders had to take care of his little siblings when his mother was off to work, so he learned to cook. Young Sanders worked in various professions after he left his home but never achieved the success he aspired to.
Fast forward to 1930, he took over the Shell filling station in Corbin and opened a tiny restaurant using his dining table and chairs. Gradually, he expanded the businesses, learned a management course from Cornell University, and bought a motel in 1940 (Sanders Court & Café).
Governor Ruby Laffon awarded him the honorary title of Kentucky “Colonel”, which Sanders held till his death.
By July 1940, Colonel perfected his recipe and created this iconic recipe of 11 herbs and spices, which KFC still takes pride in. During this period, Colonel also perfected the cooking technique of his fried chicken after incorporating the pressure cooker to cook chicken.
The First KFC Franchise
The first recipe was franchised to Colonel’s friend, Peter Harmon, thus the first franchise of KFC was in Salt Lake Utah, in 1952. Peter Harmon was operating some most notable restaurants in the city back then. The agreement was a mere hand-shake agreement, with a stipulation that Colonel would be paid a nickel for each chicken sold.
KFC also came up with its most iconic slogan, “The ‘finger-lickin’ good”, during this time. This slogan is one of the best slogans of the 20th century. The first logo of Kentucky Fried Chicken had Colonel’s face, which is still there almost a century later.
This logo gave Colonel such recognition that he is still the most recognized face in the world.
Events After the First KFC Franchise
After the first franchise success and the Colonel selling his motel due to the planned route for the Interstate 75 Bypass Corbin, Colonel was mostly on the roads. He was traveling and franchising his recipe at every nook and cranny of the country. Sanders drove all over the country — teaching his cooking techniques and giving away fried chicken samples.
By 1963, there were 600 KFC restaurants all over the USA, making it the largest fast food chain in the USA. Over the years, franchising remained a substantial part of the business model of the Colonel and even his successors. Upon opening a KFC franchise, the franchisee even had to undergo a training course at “KFC University” to learn the basics.
In 1964, Colonel Sanders decided to sell his company to a group of investors for US $2 million. The expansion of KFC started overwhelming him, which was becoming difficult for him to manage.
Colonel Sanders, till his death, played a significant role in KFC. Also, he made sure to remain the quality controller and trademark of the company via an agreement.
The 70s also saw an expansion of KFC franchises. Over the years till his death, Colonel Sanders traveled to spread his recipe all over the world. KFC branches reached an overwhelming number of more than 3,000 worldwide, including in Europe and Asia.
In 1987, with its entry into the Chinese market, KFC became the first western brand to enter China. Currently, KFC has the largest number of chains in China than in any country.
KFC Became Too Big To Handle
After Colonel Sanders sold KFC to a group of investors led by John Y. Brown Jr., KFC grew exponentially. KFC grew too big even to become difficult for Brown to handle, which resulted in soaring stock prices, operational problems, and mismanagement. So, the company was sold to Heublin, a packaged food and drinks company. However, Heublin had no experience in fast food, KFC suffered immensely. Colonel Sanders even criticized their policies publicly.
In 1986, PepsiCo bought KFC for $850 million. In 1997, PepsiCo spun off its restaurant division to Yum Brands (formerly Tricon Global Restaurants). Now, KFC, alongside Pizza Hut, Taco Bell, and others is part of Yum Brands.
KFC Has More Than 20,000 Franchises Today
KFC is currently the fourth largest fast-food restaurant chain in the world after Subway, McDonald’s, and Starbucks. It has more than 20,000 franchises in more than 130 countries worldwide. It earns most of its revenues from the Chinese market as it has the most restaurants in China. Currently, it has more than 7,000 outlets in China, while the USA has up to 4,000 KFC restaurants.
The Last Words
One has to remember that every failure can be a stepping stone to something better ~ Colonel Sanders
If you look into the entire life story of Sanders — from working in a small storeroom restaurant to his franchise till his death — you would only see optimism and passion. He achieved what he believed in. Here is the lesson for all those who fear failure.
Colonel Sanders achieved his dreams at his retirement age. Anybody can achieve what they desire if they work persistently and keep the passion alive in their heart. It is not over as long as you are alive!