Founded 1952; 19,950+ locations
Thirty-seven years since he went to the big chicken shack in the sky, Colonel Harland Sanders is more present than ever, taking the form of various comedians in television spots, lording over a crazy new VR training program, and even emblazoned on the head of obscure guitar legend Buckethead.
But as long as there's been KFC, there's been the Colonel. From the moment he started selling his patented finger-lickin' chicken in North Corbin, Kentucky, outside a gas station in 1930, he was the face of the product. And as he expanded the brand (the first official Kentucky Fried Chicken opened in Salt Lake City in 1952), Sanders himself cruised around the country to court investors and partners with his glorious plan to popularize southern comfort food. He began franchising in 1952, essentially setting the template for the fast-food franchise structure to come. And nearly nine decades later, his spirit of entrepreneurial chicken-slinging lives on.
"Part of how he grew the company was by developing solid franchise partnerships across the US, some of which are still in place today," said Kevin Hochman, US President of KFC. "In fact, many of KFC franchisees only own one or two restaurants, so ensuring they make our hand-prepared world-famous Kentucky Fried Chicken consistently in our kitchens across the US is no easy feat."
Sanders emerged in a time when burgers were king, specializing in a product that traditionally takes a lot longer to cook than patties. But that didn't stop him -- his name isn't Private Sanders, after all. He streamlined, becoming the first fast-food operation to use pressure cookers and developing a 25-minute streamlined process that every single KFC still utilizes to this day. Slow food suddenly got fast because of the Colonel.
And all these years later, the Colonel remains one of the most recognizable faces in the game, whether his smiling face is being used to shill weird fried-chicken hot dogs in Korea, the legendary Double Down, Nashville hot chicken, or the same old bucket of Original Recipe that’s been finger lickin’ since the Depression. He is the original -- and the ultimate -- spokesman-mascot. Everyone from Dave Thomas to Papa John owes the Colonel a debt, and so do the people who operate each and every fast-food restaurant post in America.