February 12, 2007

Colonel Sanders

And the man behind the brand is...
Harlan Sanders

For half of his working life Harland Sanders made his way as a street car conductor, railroad fireman and insurance salesman, to name just a few of the jobs he tried. In 1930, at the age of 40, Sanders started cooking chicken in a small restaurant in the rear of a service station he operated in Corbin, Kentucky.

Here he perfected his secret blend of 11 herbs and spices, seasonings he claimed stood on everybody’s shelf, to flavor his chicken. The ingredients are still used in Colonel Sanders Kentucky Fried Chicken today and are still a secret,
even from franchisees. In 1935 Kentucky Governor Ruby Lafoon named Sanders an honorary Colonel for his contribution to the state’s cuisine.

For a quarter-century Sanders prospered. Then in the mid-1950s a new interstate highway was planned that would bypass Corbin and his restaurant. Sanders was now 66 years old, an age when many business owners would retire and watch cars speed past his old restaurant.

But the Colonel auctioned off his operations and hit the road to display his patented pressure cooker and sell his fried chicken cooking process. He signed up only five restaurants in the first two years. Still he persevered. In two more years he had sold 200 franchises. Over the next decade Colonel Sanders and Kentucky Fried Chicken would become famous the world over.

In Japan the Colonel, with his white hair, white goatee, black string tie and double-breasted suit, is the most recognizable of all Americans. A life-size statue stands outside of everyone of the Colonel’s restaurants in Japan. The Colonel traveled more than 250,000 miles a year promoting his chicken.

In 1964 Sanders sold his interest in Kentucky Fried Chicken for $2,000,000 but remained active promoting his chicken and starring in folksy commercials until his death in 1980 at the age of 90. In honor of his achievements his body lay in state in the rotunda of the State Capitol in Frankfort, Kentucky. His chicken was being sold in more than 8000 outlets in 60 countries.

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