history of kfc
Emma J. Watson
Posted In: Lifestyle and Culture

History of KFC: A Look Back at the Origins and Evolution of KFC

Ah, KFC. Who doesn’t remember the feeling of excitement of seeing the from the back seat of your parent’s car? The iconic fried chicken restaurant that made so many people have a deep-fried good time, KFC has a long and interesting history. From their humble beginnings to becoming the world’s most recognizable fast-food chain, KFC has certainly come a long way with its iconic bucket of fried chicken and other finger-licking good dishes.

Let’s take a closer look at the delicious history of KFC and see how it evolved over the years.

Overview of KFC

KFC, otherwise known as Kentucky Fried Chicken, is an American fast-food restaurant chain that specializes in fried chicken. It is the world’s second largest restaurant chain after McDonald’s and has locations in more than 150 countries across the globe.

The iconic chain was founded by Colonel Harland David Sanders in 1930 when he started selling his fried chicken from a roadside restaurant in Corbin, Kentucky. By the mid-1950s, it had already become a national phenomenon and became an international powerhouse by the 1970s with operations across Japan, Western Europe, Latin America, and Australia to name just a few.

Early History

KFC, the iconic fast-food chain that we all know and love, has an interesting history that dates back to the 1930s. Founded by the legendary Colonel Harland Sanders in 1930, it started as a roadside restaurant called “Sanders Court & Café“.

Consisting of a small number of seats, the eatery was known for its famous fried chicken and other country-style dishes.

Eventually, it grew in popularity and the rest, as they say, is history.

Founding of KFC

In 1930, a one-time farmhand and aspiring entrepreneur named Colonel Harland Sanders opened a small service station in the small Kentucky town of Corbin, and began selling his signature “Original Recipe” fried chicken. He cooked chicken for traveling customers in the back room of his service station. By 1937, business was so good that he expanded his restaurant to 142 seats.

When World War II hit, gas was rationed and having an automobile became a luxury rather than necessity. The Colonel had to shutter many of his businesses; however, this disruption gave him time to perfect his cooking technique for fried chicken – shaking it in paper bags with eleven herbs and spices.

Sanders Court and Cafe
Sanders Court and Café

To make sure his customers always got the same flavor each time they visited a KFC store, the Colonel moved to New Orleans where he set up a headquarters known as “Sanders Court & Café” where his revolutionary cooking technique was unleashed on both locals and visitors alike. It wasn’t long before word spread about this finger lickin’ good southern fried chicken offering from the mysterious “Colonel” from Kentucky!

In 1952 “the colonel franchised KFC,” ultimately making it into the wildly successful global brand it is today with over 25,000 outlets worldwide in more than 150 countries across the globe – generating yearly sales of over $27.9 billion USD (as of 2020).

Key Milestones

The key milestones in this history are both significant for the company, and for fast food as a whole.

The first major milestone for KFC came in 1952 with the opening of its first Kentucky Fried Chicken franchise in Salt Lake City, Utah. Since then, KFC has continued to expand its presence around the world: Europe and Latin America alone now have over 13,000 KFC restaurants combined.

First KFC Salt Lake City Utah
First KFC Salt Lake City Utah

In the 1970s and 1980s, KFC began offering drive-thru service at its restaurants across the United States. This changed how people consumed fast food, allowing customers to quickly purchase meals without getting out of their vehicles. This convenience expanded even further in 1999 when KFC began offering delivery services in many of its restaurants across the U.S., allowing customers to order meals right to their doorsteps.

Yum! Brands (formerly Tricon Global Restaurants) was created to oversee the management of several popular fast-food brands including Taco Bell, The Habit burger Grill and Pizza Hut; not long after this Yum! acquired KFC from RJR Nabisco in 1986, making it one of its core brands alongside Taco Bell and Pizza Hut.

KFC continued to grow throughout the 1990’s and 2000’s designing new products such as their famous “Bucket Meals” which offer families large orders of classic chicken dishes at an affordable price point; these have made them one of America’s top go-to comfort food spots for generations!

In 2009 KFC introduced its “Grilled Chicken” line which became an instant hit with health conscious consumers looking for healthier alternatives from fried foods. The introduction of this product marked a major turning point in how consumers perceive fast-food chains like KFC – increasingly focusing on more nutritious eating habits rather than just convenience or speed when arriving at these establishments.

Changes in Ownership and Management

Since its founding in 1930, Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC) has been through various shifts in ownership and management. It’s fascinating to look back and see how this iconic fast-food chain has evolved over time while still being able to maintain its loyal customer base. Let’s take a closer look at the different changes in ownership and management that KFC has experienced since its inception:

Changes in Ownership

In 1964, Sanders sold his interest in KFC parent company Kentucky Fried Chicken to investors Jack C. Massey and John Y. Brown, Jr. for $2 million – and received another $2 million several years later when his stock was further diluted with an additional infusion of capital from the new owners.

John Y. Brown and Colonel Sanders
John Y. Brown and Colonel Sanders

Under the direction of Massey and Brown, KFC expanded at a rapid rate – reaching more than 6,600 outlets by 1970 – until the ownership changed yet again in 1971. At that time, a group of investors led by future Mayor of Louisville, Jefferson County Judge-Executive Todd Hollenbach purchased KFC for approximately $285 million. The company then went public and underwent a series of mergers and acquisitions – resulting in today’s Yum! Brands corporate umbrella that includes KFC along with Pizza Hut, Taco Bell and other fast food favorites.

Expansion and Global Reach

Since its humble beginnings, KFC has expanded its reach from its original US base to become a truly global franchise. The iconic fast-food chain has opened outlets in over 147 countries as of 2022, wowing customers with its famous fried chicken.

This section will explore the history of KFC’s growth and its conquest of the world.

Expansion in the US

First KFC in England
First KFC in England

In America, KFC was leading the pack with its steadily growing presence in all 50 states and beyond. Its first international location opened in Canada in 1953 and in 1965, the chain went continental, moving into England. From there, it started a conquest of the world’s taste buds, making its way to Mexico.

KFC kept pushing forward and establishing new locations – sometimes hundreds of them in just one year!

Today’s KFC franchises are found everywhere from small towns in the Midwest to London’s Leicester Square. And while there’s usually a few menu changes when crossing borders – Does anyone know what crispy burger wraps are? – some of Colonel Sanders’ signature offerings remain consistent across continents. The same signature recipe crunchy chicken and creamy mash potatoes can be found everywhere from Malaysia to South Korea.

If you want to get your hands on a piece of chicken without leaving your couch then you’re still good to go! Delivery services such as Grubhub or DoorDash offer home delivery for KFC wherever it’s available. In some cities in Europe and Asia, delivery has never been easier with ordering directly via KFC’s app or through an online store like Lazada or JD.com if you’re located close to China. So no matter where you are today (or tomorrow), there’s no excuse not to feel a little bit of nostalgia every now and again thanks to Colonel Sanders!

KFC’s Menu

Life wouldn’t be the same without the ever-popular KFC menu. From iconic fried chicken favorites like the Original Recipe, to the unique and delectable offerings of the Secret Menu*, KFC has something to satisfy every craving and taste.

Let’s take a look back at the classic KFC dishes and recipes that have kept us coming back for more over the years:

Classic menu items

KFC’s menu has remained relatively unchanged since it first opened back in 1930. Classic menu items like the Original Recipe chicken, mashed potatoes and gravy, coleslaw, macaroni and cheese, biscuits, corn on the cob and a variety of desserts have been available at KFC for generations.

The Original Recipe chicken is fried to golden perfection with 11 herbs and spices developed by Colonel Harland Sanders himself. Comfort food classics like creamy mashed potatoes and rich gravy pair perfectly with this iconic poultry dish. For a bit of crunchy texture, KFC offers coleslaw that’s made with freshly-ground cabbage for maximum flavor. Macaroni and cheese is also a popular side dish at KFC—the cheesy goodness starts with a white sauce that’s simmered to perfection before being added to cooked macaroni noodles.

KFC biscuits are warm slices of freshly baked Southern-style heaven. These fluffy biscuits come with either honey or gravy so you can choose how you want them served—drizzled in sweet honey or smothered in rich gravy? The choice is yours! Corn on the cob rounds out these classic offerings at KFC, giving diners something fresh to enjoy.

For dessert lovers out there, KFC has all your sugary cravings covered with home-style pies like apple tart or pecan delight as well as soft serve ice cream cones or cups topped off with colourful candy sprinkles!

New menu items

Since its beginnings, KFC has created a variety of tasty and innovative menu items as it continues to grow and evolve as an iconic fast-food chain. When the Colonel’s Original Recipe debuted in 1940, it was the first fast-food franchise to introduce fried chicken to the US public – revolutionizing the way Americans think about food!

KFC has continued to expand its menu over the years with a variety of new items offering something for everyone. From various finger-lickin’ chicken varieties such as Extra Crispy, Kentucky Grilled Chicken and Popcorn Nuggets, to sides like Mac & Cheese and Mashed Potatoes & Gravy – there’s an ever growing selection of delicious dishes for you to enjoy. Don’t forget about their snacks like Hot Wings, BBQ Bacon Bowls and BBQ Bites. And then there’s their desserts such as Chocolate Chip Cake and Banana Pudding Parfait.

The Colonel’s secret recipe

When it comes to the iconic fast-food chain KFC, Colonel Sanders might be its most recognizable mascot, but the secret recipe for his famous fried chicken is arguably the chain’s greatest signature. And in true secretive fashion, Sanders never allowed any of his employees or even his wife to have knowledge of the precise recipe.

What we do know is that it contains 11 herbs and spices – one of which is white pepper – as well as MSG. As to why Colonel Sanders kept his famous recipe so close to his chest? Well, it was a common practice in business at the time to protect recipes as intellectual property. Legend has it that he also kept his actual mix stored in two different safes at any given time. The protective measures paid off: Ultimately, KFC sold more than $23 billion worth of fried chicken each year before Sanders passed away in 1980. Talk about #winning!

KFC’s commitment to sustainability

KFC has always been committed to sustainability, from its Colonel Sanders’ days through to the present. The original recipe for fried chicken used by Colonel Sanders in the 1940s was “all natural,” using ingredients from local farms and sourcing corn, wheat and potatoes from local farmers. It made sense to use these recyclable foods as commodities for growing the business, as well as for sustainability efforts.

Today, KFC continues to strive toward its goal of serving delicious food with sustainable practices. KFC works with suppliers who have animal welfare practices that meet or exceed international standards and they only source chickens that are raised without antibiotics. They use packaging made of sustainable materials like paper and compostable film which are fully recyclable or can be reused multiple times.

Their restaurants also track their energy consumption and work towards efficiency initiatives, such as LED lighting and heating systems that reduce wastage and their carbon footprint.


In conclusion, KFC has become a timeless classic in the fast-food industry and has had a lasting impact on the food industry. KFC has been a success story that continues to inspire many up-and-coming fast-food chains.


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