The Restaurant Founder That Also Played A Key Role For KFC

KFC has become a veritable institution of unreasonably delicious fried chicken. The fast food chain has delighted the palates of the poultry-loving public for ages, and Colonel Sanders' crazy real-life story and his role as the company's perennial mascot have provided the crispy chicken company an ample mythology from which to draw. 

Colonel Harland Sanders, of course, was the face of Kentucky Fried Chicken and remains the symbol of the rebranded KFC, but that doesn't mean he's been the only person involved in turning a gas station backroom food operation into a global chicken juggernaut. In fact, you might be surprised to find out that an instrumental part of the KFC operation's early years was someone you may be pretty familiar with — but from the context of an entirely different, though famous, restaurant chain.

What could have prompted a team-up between two fast food legends? Let's take a look at the restaurant founder who also played a key role for KFC.

Wendy's founder Dave Thomas was instrumental in KFC's early years

The restaurant founder who helped KFC on its path to success was none other than Dave Thomas, the founder and longtime face of Wendy's. This superhero team-up between two fast food icons didn't come entirely out of the blue. Per The Balance SMB, Thomas was the head cook for a restaurant business Sanders started turning into the Kentucky Fried Kitchen franchise, and immediately proved to be a fountain of cool ideas that shaped the company's future. It was Thomas who came up with the idea of keeping the menu minimalist and laser-focused on fried chicken, to differentiate themselves in a sea of competition. It was also Thomas who came up with the famous bucket with the red and white stripes. He was even the one who helped the Colonel become iconic, as he pushed Sanders to provide the brand with a trustworthy, reliable face. 

Thomas's non-stop barrage of ideas was a lucrative one for the company, and for himself, as well. He ended up in charge of a bunch of KFC restaurant franchises, which he eventually sold back to Sanders. By 1968, he was a millionaire. In 1969, he got fed up with the fact that he couldn't get a decent hamburger in his neighborhood ... and the rest is history.