When Was KFC Founded? The Origin Story

When Was KFC Founded? The Origin Story

In this article, we will see the answer to the question ‘When Was KFC Founded?’.

Kentucky Fried Chicken, commonly known as KFC, is one of the USA’s most celebrated food chains. It has been one of the original creators of the signature breaded and fried chicken in the US and has spread the sensation worldwide.

But what is now such a sensational food chain wasn’t initially well off. Its origin story is full of struggles and hard work, like many other franchises. The journey of one of the world’s biggest chains began in 1952; let’s explore how.

How It Began?

The start of KFC was in 1952, but the story begins in 1890 when Harland Sanders was born. He was the eldest child of his family and suffered a lot through his childhood since his father passed away when he was only five.

Consequently, he had to help his mother at work and take care of his younger siblings too. But this responsibility was optimistic as he learned to cook in the duration. Finally, he started working and left home in 1903.

Throughout his life, he worked many odd jobs and tried his best to earn money. But while everything was alright, he did not achieve great success in any field. So he acquired a Shell Filling Station and began his cooking journey from there.

That initially started as a steak place, and the traveler seems to like his cooking. So he acquired another station across the road and started making multiple dishes there. It is when he began selling chicken, and yet, it wasn’t the legendary chicken we eat today.

The Life of Colonel Harland Sanders

As you might already know, Sanders had a rocky childhood with lots of responsibilities. However, it also helped him become independent and skilled in cooking, so it was not bad after all. And his later life also did not give him much hope either.

The jobs he started with all led to an average earning and nothing more. But he, like every one of us, wanted to do something better. So he finally decided to turn to food after he had tried everything else.

And even after he succeeded in opening and running his diner, he did not stop there. He had achieved great success with hat venture, but he kept improving. He believed in creating high-quality cuisine, so he did everything in his power to improve.

He developed the signature chicken we know now years after his restaurant succeeded. Had he stopped at the initial success, we would probably not have been able to taste the legendary chicken.

How the Signature Recipe came into Being?

His restaurant across the first one had succeeded in the business, and the people loved it too. So, in 1936, Governor Ruby Laffoon gave him the title of Kentucky Colonel due to the success in his business and his restaurant. 

He further expanded his restaurant and acquired a motel, to name it Sanders Court & Café. But his success seemed bittersweet to him. Behind the satisfied customers and delicious food was an intense cooking process that went on for 35 minutes. 

It took so long because he used an iron frying pan as opposed to a regular deep fryer. But he did not prefer deep frying the chicken as it made the chicken dry from inside. So when pressure cookers entered the market, Sanders used the same method to pressure fry the chicken.

By doing so, he achieved the perfect chicken he wanted. The chicken was still juicy on the inside and crispy on the outside. Yet, it did not take as long to cook as it would in a pan. Thus, it is how the recipe we know of today came into being.

The First KFC Store

As we know, the restaurant he had opened in from on is his first restaurant was where his success began. As his dishes became popular with the travelers, he wanted to expand the space to accommodate more people in the restaurant.

Thus, he opened the Sanders Court & Café in a motel he acquired. The restaurant did exceptional business and got him success. But by then, he mastered his chicken recipe, which was far different from any other.

His fried chicken was juicier than other fried chicken and yet as crispy and flavorful. So he shut down his successful restaurant in 1955 due to reforms in the travel route. He decided to create a franchise instead with the help of independent restaurant owners.

In 1952, the first franchise branch of KFC emerged in South Salt Lake City, Utah. Sanders franchised his chicken recipe to Pete Harman, who sold it in one of the most renowned restaurants in the city. That restaurant is recorded as the first-ever ‘KFC’ store to come into existence.

He also hired R.L. Anderson, who coined the name “Kentucky Fried Chicken” for the franchise for all the futures stores to adopt. And his business boomed even further with the introduction and sales of his signature menu item.

The Earlier Stores of KFC

The franchise approach to chicken was the perfect way for Sanders to share his achievement with the world. He had multiple franchise stores in a few years which sold the menu item. So KFC didn’t exactly have its first store in Kentucky itself.

The Kentucky headquarters for the company opened somewhere around 1956. From that point onwards, KFC saw only success on the way. Many more franchise stores came up in the country and revolutionized the chicken.

It was an outstanding achievement if you consider how famous hamburgers were at the time. KFC brought fried chicken on a level to compete with such an established food item. In 1963, the number of franchised restaurants selling KFC chicken was 600.

But by just this, they were unsuccessful in achieving their set goals, and they aspired to reach even further in sales. The worldwide expansion was also a motive, and even expanding father in the States was essential. And the employees worked hard and smart for the development.

Rise of the Popularity 

Another essential point time in the history of KFC was the entry of John Y. Brown into the company. He led the company to further expansion using standardization. Colonel Sanders didn’t seem too keen on the idea of selling the company.

The sale of the company was a smart move and took some effort. But in the process, Colonel Sanders made sure to sign a contract. The contract made him the ultimate controller of the company and let him receive a salary throughout his life.

It is also this time when Brown and Jack Massey, a financier, set out to change the layout of the franchises. They reformed the restaurants to sell the KFC-specified menu exclusively. It is also the time when they created the red-and-white theme for all the franchises.

A lot of reformation took place in this time, and Brown and Massey had a different perspective for the company’s future. Though the two and Colonel did not agree on everything, they still worked to reform the company.

Conversion to a Public Company

Sanders played his role as the decision-maker even though he did sell the company, so many arguments did arise. The most significant one would be the issue of the headquarters move done by Massey, which did not sit well with Sanders.

Massey wanted the company’s headquarters to get shifted to Nashville, Tennessee. But the Colonel was firmly against this decision and stopped this move. Moreover, it led to disagreements about the authority of Sanders.

Sanders held stocks worth $1.5 million, which let him make and interrupt the decisions. So a back and forth ensued, and many negotiations took place at this time. Ultimately, Brown and Massey convinced Sanders to agree.

The agreement gave Sanders exclusive rights for the sales in Canada, but in return, he would have to sell his shares. He did so, and thus, the company headquarters issue got solved. Then the company became public.

KFC and the PepsiCo Acquisition

The public company then acquired rights to all the stores and managed them directly. The company flourished from that point on and became the sixth largest restaurant chain in the USA in 1967.

Many other events took place in the further years, like Brown becoming the chairman. But he failed to grow the business and sold KFC to Heublein. Further, the company wasn’t doing well under the new chairman Richard Mayer, and R. J. Reynolds came into the picture in 1983.

He improved the condition of the company before selling it to PepsiCo in 1986. Sanders had passed away in 1980 from pneumonia, and the company wasn’t doing as well. Under PepsiCo, KFC began to focus on soft drinks as well.

The chairman at the time was Richard Mayer, and the company was still not at the level it had been at earlier. Due to the Pepsi acquisition, many other food chains like Wendy’s switched out to Coca-Cola instead. Mayer gave up his position to John Cranor III.

Worldwide Expansion of KFC

Under Cranor, many reformations took place, which led to major changes. Cranor wanted to make amendments to the US contract for franchises. But his terms were cruel and inconsiderate, according to some people, leading to a major controversy.

It took a few years to solve the issue and controversy, but it happened in 1996. KFC already had the first restaurant in Beijing in 1987, the first western restaurant to ever do so. And after the reform by Cranor, the worldwide growth happened fast.

With more focus on worldwide expansion and menu development across countries, the company faced many ups and downs. The differing trends in diets made the company suffer quite a lot during these years.

The company had to compete with many other chains providing healthier options of meals to the people. It was a rough time for the company, but the workers endured it well. The stores internationally continued to grow for KFC.

Current Status of the Franchise

Currently, the company is a reputed brand not only in the USA but worldwide. For most people, the US chicken dish is a representative dish loved by foreigners. Many countries have original and unique menus by the company.

However, with the rising environmental awareness and alarming health issues, KFC is still under fire. Although the whole fast food industry is a contributor, KFC was seen as a threat to people since it caused overeating and, consequently, obesity.

Obesity was and is such a big issue in the USA, especially for teens and young adults. And apart from such eating issues, there were also environmental concerns. PETA held many campaigns and protests against the company too.

The 2010s were more fruitful for KFC in terms of sales and expansion. It was somewhere there that KFC became the second largest fast-food chain in the world. From that point onward, it became stable in the industry and continues to develop products to date.


Who doesn’t love the crispy outer coating of the chicken with the juicy flesh inside? It is arguably one of the USA’s most popular dishes all around the world. The franchise began at a small filling station and grew to thousands of stores all around the globe.

But it is now a powerful competitor to many other popular fast-food chains in the world. The rich history of the origin of the dish and how it became so big is fascinating. It is an inspiring story for anyone and shows how hard work translates to success.

Frequently Asked Questions
  • Who founded the original recipe for chicken in KFC?

The founder of KFC and its signature chicken recipe was Colonel Harland Sanders. He began his cooking business much earlier but, after development, discovered the final recipe for the fried chicken.

  • When was the first KFC store opened?

Colonel Sanders opened his first restaurant much earlier, in 1930. It took him six years to establish the business, and then he began developing the recipe. The first store opened earlier, but it was only made into a franchise in 1952.

  • Was KFC created by Colonel Sanders?

Yes, Colonel Harland Sanders developed the recipe for the legendary chicken you can find in KFC.

When Was KFC Founded? The Origin Story

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