Wednesday, 5 December 2012

The Success story of KFC

When it comes to success stories, one of the most remarkable is that of Col. Harlan Sanders and the Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC).  It provides a lesson as to why one should NEVER, EVER give up at the face of the fierce adversity.

Harland Sanders is born just outside Henryville, Indiana, USA, on 9/9/1890. Household responsibilities were often left to him while his mother worked to support the family after his father's early death. This is how he developed his keen cooking skills as he helped his mother take care of the other children in his family. During the years 1900 to 1924, Harland Sanders held a variety of jobs including: farm hand, streetcar conductor, army private in Cuba, blacksmith's helper, railyard fireman, insurance salesman, tire salesman and service station operator for Standard Oil.

Sanders began his entrepreneurial career running a service station in Kentucky while serving his special chicken in a dining area within.

At the age of 40, in 1930, in the midst of the depression, Harland Sanders opens his first restaurant in the small front room of a gas station in North Corbin, Kentucky. Sanders served as station operator, chief cook and cashier and names the dining area "Sanders Court & Café." It was so successful that in 1936, at 46 years old, Sanders was honoured with Knighthood as Kentucky Colonel by the Kentucky Governor Ruby Laffoon, in recognition of his contributions to the state's cuisine. The following year (Age 47; 1937), as business grew , Sanders expanded and relocated his restaurant to 142 seats, and added a motel he bought across the street.

At the age of 49, in 1939, fire destroys The Sanders Court & Café, but it is rebuilt and reopened.

In 1940 (age 50) Sanders created his well-known "Original Recipe."  In 1949 Sanders married Claudia Price.

The Sanders Court & Café generally served travelers, often those headed to Florida through the town of Corbin, Kentucky. But later in 1955 the Interstate 75 was constructed and it bypassed Corbin. This caused a great loss in business, forcing Sanders to retire and sell his restaurant. At the age of 65, after paying debts owed, he is virtually become broke. He began to collect his social security check of about $105 as he wondered how he was going to survive financially. But Sanders wasn't willing to just sit still and try to live somehow.

He believed there was an opportunity to market his chicken to restaurant owners across the U.S.
Col. Sanders was willing to share his fried chicken recipe. He traveled door to door to restaurants all over his local area and across the U.S. to sell his chicken to restaurant owners. He wanted to partner with someone to help promote his chicken recipe. But he was met with little enthusiasm. In his travels, he was rejected on many occasions, laughed at about his attire of his starched white shirt and white pants. Many assumed that he was little more than a crank!

However, Sanders persevered.

While most would have given up under such circumstances the Colonel did not let it get him down. Thanks to the Colonel for the finger licking fried chicken, he was far above an average person. He persevered until he would hear someone who had faith in his recipe and Kentucky Friend Chicken was born.

And after a little over 1,000 visits, he finally persuaded Pete Harman in South Salt Lake, Utah to partner with him. They launched the first "Kentucky Fried Chicken" site in 1952 (at the age of 62).

This is how they met and the business signed.

In 1952, during a National Restaurant Association conference, Pete Harman sat next to a distinguished looking gentleman, Colonel Harland Sanders, and had a conversation. What followed was a visit to Salt Lake City by Harland Sanders on his way to Australia. After a long day of sight seeing, the Colonel said, “I’m going to cook dinner for you and Arlene (Pete’s wife)”. He asked Pete to buy four chickens at the local grocery store. Harman Café didn’t have a pressure cooker so one was borrowed. The Colonel began cooking the special food. By 10 PM the dish of chicken with mashed potatoes and gravy was ready to eat.

Pete Harman sensed he had a winner with him, an ordinary man with an extraordinary vision. The Colonel asked him for 5 cents on every chicken he sold.

But what do you call it? Utah Fried Chicken was thought of, as the name of the restaurant. But Pete’s sign painter Don Anderson felt that since Colonel Sanders was from Kentucky, why not use Kentucky? Kentucky means Southern hospitality and good food. There was something rare and sensational about featuring a food far from home. The Colonel came back from his trip and let the name, “Kentucky Fried Chicken” stand. Business took off. “Before we knew it, we were in the chicken business, and people were lining up to get in,” Pete said. “Within a year, we had doubled the size of the place and the annual volume went from $135,000 to $450,000.

The Colonel looked and acted differently. Harman recognized a marketing opportunity. He asked Colonel Sanders to attend parades and make public appearances with him. He felt that the Colonel would stand out more not with his typical black suit but with a white suit. The image stuck.

Pete Harman became the first franchisee for Colonel Harland Sanders’ now Kentucky Fried Chicken. By 1955 (age 65) the Colonel incorporated his business and went on a road show issuing franchises throughout the country.

In the early 1960's (age 70) there were over 600 franchised locations in the U.S. and Canada selling the delectable chicken. At the age of 74, in 1964 Sanders sells his interest in the U.S. company for $2 million to a group of investors headed by John Y. Brown Jr., future governor of Kentucky. The Colonel remains a public spokesman for the company.

The franchise has been sold three other times since then and continues to be a well-known successful business. The chain has been sold three more times: to Heublein in 1971, to R.J. Reynolds in 1982 and most recently to PepsiCo in 1986, which made it part of its Tricon Global Restaurants division, which in turn was spun off in 1997, and has now been renamed to Yum! Brands.

This is a story about how a team of franchiser and franchise owner developed an extraordinary relationship that helped pioneer a chain that would one day be one of the most global franchise chains on the planet.

This is a true success story that may motivate anyone contemplating quitting because things are tough, at present. Great things can happen if only we persist with our vision and NEVER EVER lose hold of it. That is a success story for us all and for all those who may come after.

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