Harland Sanders was born in 1890 and raised on a farm outside Henryville, Indiana. When Harland was five years old, his father died, forcing his mother to work at a canning plant. This left Harland, as the eldest son, to care for his two younger siblings. After he reached seven years of age, his mother taught him how to cook.After leaving the family home at the age of 13, Sanders passed through several professions, with mixed success. In 1930, he took over a Shell filling station on US Route 25 just outside North Corbin, Kentucky, a small town on the edge of the Appalachian Mountains. It was here that he first served to travelers the recipes that he had learned as a child: fried chicken and other dishes such as steaks and country ham. After four years of serving from his own dining room table, Sanders purchased the larger filling station on the other side of the road and expanded to six tables. By 1936, this had proven successful enough for Sanders to be given the honorary title of Kentucky colonel by Governor Ruby Laffoon. In 1937 he expanded his restaurant to 142 seats, and added a motel he purchased across the street, naming it Sanders Court & Café.
Sanders was unhappy with the 35 minutes it took to prepare his chicken in an iron frying pan, but he refused to deep fry the chicken, which he believed lowered the quality of the product. If he pre-cooked the chicken in advance of orders, there was sometimes wastage at day’s end. In 1939, the first commercial pressure cookers were released onto the market, mostly designed for steaming vegetables. Sanders bought one, and modified it into a pressure fryer, which he then used to fry chicken. The new method reduced production time to be comparable with deep frying, while, in the opinion of Sanders, retaining the quality of pan-fried chicken.
In July 1940, Sanders finalised what came to be known as his “Original Recipe” of 11 herbs and spices. Although he never publicly revealed the recipe, he admitted to the use of salt and pepper, and claimed that the ingredients “stand on everybody’s shelf.” After being recommissioned as a Kentucky colonel in 1950 by Governor Lawrence Wetherby, Sanders began to dress the part, growing a goatee and wearing a black frock coat (later switched to a white suit), a string tie, and referring to himself as “Colonel.” His associates went along with the title change, “jokingly at first and then in earnest,” according to biographer Josh Ozersky.
The Sanders Court & Café generally served travelers, so when the route planned in 1955 for Interstate 75 bypassed Corbin, Sanders sold his properties and traveled the US to franchise his chicken recipe to restaurant owners. Independent restaurants would pay four (later five) centson each chicken as a franchise fee, in exchange for Sanders’ “secret blend of herbs and spices” and the right to feature his recipe on their menus and use his name and likeness for promotional purposes. In 1952 he had already successfully franchised his recipe to his friend Pete Harmanof South Salt Lake, Utah, the operator of one of the city’s largest restaurants.
Don Anderson, a sign painter hired by Harman, coined the name “Kentucky Fried Chicken.” For Harman, the addition of KFC was a way of differentiating his restaurant from competitors; a product from Kentucky was exotic, and evoked imagery of Southern hospitality. Harman trademarked the phrase “It’s finger lickin’ good,” which eventually become the company-wide slogan. He also introduced the “bucket meal” in 1957 (14 pieces of chicken, five bread rolls and a pint of gravy in a cardboard bucket). Serving their signature meal in a paper bucket was to become an iconic feature of the company.
By 1963 there were 600 KFC restaurants, making the company the largest fast food operation in the United States. KFC popularized chicken in the fast food industry, diversifying the market by challenging the established dominance of the hamburger.
In 1964, Sanders sold the company to a group of investors led by John Y. Brown Jr. and Jack C. Massey for US$2 million (around US$15 million in 2013). The contract included a lifetime salary for Sanders and the agreement that he would be the company’s quality controller and trademark. The chain had reached 3,000 outlets in 48 different countries by 1970. In July 1971, Brown sold the company to the Connecticut-based Heublein, a packaged food and drinks corporation, for US$285 million (around US$1.6 billion in 2013). Sanders died in 1980, his promotional work making him a prominent figure in American cultural history. By the time of his death, there were an estimated 6,000 KFC outlets in 48 different countries worldwide, with $2 billion of sales annually.
In 1982, Heublein was acquired by R. J. Reynolds, the tobacco giant. In July 1986, Reynolds sold KFC to PepsiCo for $850 million (around US$1.8 billion in 2013). PepsiCo made the chain a part of its restaurants division alongside Pizza Hut and Taco Bell. The Chinese market was entered in November 1987, with an outlet in Beijing.
In 1991, the KFC name was officially adopted, although it was already widely known by that initialism. Kyle Craig, president of KFC US, admitted the change was an attempt to distance the chain from the unhealthy connotations of “fried”. The early 1990s saw a number of successful major products launched throughout the chain, including spicy “Hot Wings” (launched in 1990), popcorn chicken (1992), and internationally, the “Zinger”, a spicy chicken fillet burger (1993). By 1994, KFC had 5,149 outlets in the US, and 9,407 overall, with over 100,000 employees. In August 1997, PepsiCo spun off its restaurants division as a public company valued at US$4.5 billion (around US$6.5 billion in 2013). The new company was named Tricon Global Restaurants, and at the time had 30,000 outlets and annual sales of US$10 billion (around US$14 billion in 2013), making it second in the world only to McDonald’s. Tricon was renamed Yum! Brands in May 2002.”
*Information from Wikipedia.org
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