KFC Corporation, based in Louisville, Kentucky, is one of the few brands in America that can boast a rich, decades-long history of success and innovation. It all started with one cook who created a soon-to-be world famous recipe more than 70 years ago, a list of secret herbs and spices scratched out on the back of the door to his kitchen.
That cook was Colonel Harland Sanders of course, and now KFC is the world's most popular chicken restaurant chain, specializing in that same Original Recipe®, along with Extra Crispy™ chicken, home-style sides and buttermilk biscuits. There are more than 15,000 KFC outlets in 105 countries and territories around the world. And you know what? There’s still a cook in a kitchen in every last one of them, freshly preparing delicious, complete family meals at affordable prices.
It is the world's second largest restaurant chain overall (as measured by sales) after McDonald's, with over 18,000 outlets in 120 countries and territories as of December 2012.
KFC was founded by Harland Sanders, a colorful figure who began selling fried chicken from his roadside restaurant in Corbin, Kentucky, during the Great Depression. Sanders identified the potential of the restaurant franchising concept, and the first "Kentucky Fried Chicken" franchise opened in Utah in 1952. KFC popularized chicken in the fast food industry, diversifying the market by challenging the established dominance of the hamburger.
By branding himself as "Colonel Sanders", Harland became a legendary figure of American cultural history, and his image remains prominent in KFC advertising. However, the company's rapid expansion saw it grow too large for Sanders to manage, and in 1964 he sold the company to a group of investors led by John Y. Brown, Jr. and Jack Massey.
KFC was one of the first fast food chains to expand internationally, opening outlets in England, Mexico and Jamaica by the mid-1960s. Throughout the 1970s and 1980s, KFC experienced mixed fortunes domestically, as it went through a series of changes in corporate ownership with little or no experience in the restaurant business.
In the early 1970s, KFC was sold to the spirits distributor Heublein, who were taken over by the R.J. Reynolds food and tobacco conglomerate, who sold the chain to PepsiCo. The chain continued to expand overseas however, and in 1987 KFC became the first Western restaurant chain to open in China.
The chain has since expanded rapidly in China, and the country is now the company's most profitable market. PepsiCo spun off its restaurants division as Tricon Global Restaurants, which later changed its name to Yum! Brands.
The exact nature of these ingredients is unknown, and represents a notable trade secret. Larger portions of fried chicken are served in a distinctive cardboard "bucket", which has become a signature of the chain since being introduced by franchisee Pete Harman in 1957. KFC is known for the slogan "finger lickin' good", which has since been replaced by "Nobody does chicken like KFC" and "So good".