Useful Notes: Kentucky Fried Chicken

Finger lickin' good!
Nobody does chicken like KFC.

Kentucky Fried Chicken (or KFC) is America's largest fried chicken restaurant chain, and the second largest restaurant chain overall.

You might notice that their logo is the face of a bearded man in a tie. This logo is a picture of the company's founder, "Colonel" Harland Sanders (1890-1980). A native of Henryville, Indiana (a farm town near Louisville, Kentucky), Sanders bounced around the country for much of his youth, spending time in places as diverse as Indianapolis, Alabama, and Cuba before finding himself back in Louisville. He found his business there didn't match his skill set, so he went further east in Kentucky, at first working for the French tire company Michelin, and then when Michelin closed its American operations, he opened a Shell gas station in Corbin, Kentucky, off one of the main roads between the big industrial cities of the Midwest and major population centers in the South. Sanders found his calling here. He sold pan-fried chicken to travelers, at first in his parlor, and when business got too much for that, at his restaurant, Sanders Court and Cafe. Eventually, he was serving so much chicken that he needed a new way to cook it—and with that problem in mind, he searched for a way to prepare fried chicken quickly without sacrificing quality. He discovered the idea of pressure-frying the chicken, which worked so well his business only increased. For this innovation, Sanders was made a Kentucky Colonel.note 

It seemed for a while that that would be that. However, in the 1950s the federal government drew up plans to build the Interstate Highway System, and wouldn't you know it—the new Interstate 75, to be the main north-south route through eastern Kentucky, bypassed Corbin completely, diverting the Colonel's business. At this point, the Colonel was 65, but because of the ups and downs of his career, he realized he couldn't simply retire. It was because of this that the Colonel granted a franchise to the first KFC in Utah, to massive popularity. Eventually, he was overwhelmed by his business, and sold the company to investors, although they continued to use his picture as a logo. Rapid marketing began. Sanders appeared twice on the popular panel show Whats My Line, first as a regular guest when his image was not yet famous and then again as a Mystery Guest with the panel blindfolded when his image became well-known.

Throughout the 1970s and '80s, KFC had a moderate success, though the various business owners it was passed onto had little knowledge of how to run it properly. Throughout all this early confusion, it was sold to PepsiCo, who spun off its restaurant division (also including Taco Bell and Pizza Hut, among others) as Tricon Global Restaurants; that company later renamed itself Yum! Brands.

The company's primary market is chicken, whether fried, grilled, or in a sandwich. Sides are, generally speaking, outside of the famous potato wedges, a fast-food-ified form of traditional Southern side dishes: mashed potatoes, coleslaw, biscuits, macaroni and cheese, etc. They also sell soft drinks with their meals, as well as desserts. They're most famous for their "Original Recipe" chicken, supposedly seasoned with Sanders' recipe of eleven herbs and spices, though the true contents of the recipe are one of life's greatest secrets (and late in life, Sanders grumpily insisted that the herbs and spices had been abandoned by the company).

While the chain was originally, officially, known as Kentucky Fried Chicken, due to most people calling it "KFC" and a desire to expand their brand, the name was changed "officially" in 2006 to KFC. Cue the various rumors about the name change occurring to avoid trouble with the use of one of those words; the official (and true) explanation is that they wanted to avoid the negative connotations of fried foods, but crazy people have whispered that it's because they have no franchises in Kentucky (which is demonstrably false; also, their corporate headquarters are in Louisville, to say nothing of the fact that they named a major arena in Louisville after the chain, and, yes, there's a KFC concession in the buildingnote ) or that their food doesn't actually contain chicken (which is downright bizarre—the stuff they sell is more visibly like chicken than what you would get at most fast food restaurants).

Even following his death, the image of Colonel Sanders has been featured in promotions for the company. In 2015, the company launched a new campaign featuring Norm Macdonald as the Colonel.

Not to be confused with The Kentucky Fried Movie.