The Humble Way Colonel Sanders Sought Out Potential KFC Franchisees

Giving away secrets of success typically isn't the best way to run an organization — especially in the fast food industry. With so much competition, it seems absurd to publish the recipe for a secret sauce or announce the key to keeping prices low. 

KFC understands this concept well, as its signature chicken is seasoned with a secret selection of 11 herbs and spices before frying it. This special combination was created by the fast food chain's founder, Colonel Sanders, in 1939 (via Insider). To protect the core of its business empire, the Chicago Tribune notes that the respected recipe is kept locked in a vault and has to be prepared in separate parts by two different companies. The top-secret marketing tactic behind the recipe contributes to KFC's success, as the outlet reports, and many have tried to replicate the famous fried chicken, but never quite hit the mark. 

Sanders knew he had created a revolutionary recipe and as popularity grew in his own small restaurant through the 1940s, he developed a low-key plan for franchising his fried chicken (per Insider).

Colonel Sanders built an empire from scratch

Lacking the finances Kentucky Fried Chicken has today, Colonel Sanders relied on his marketing skills and cooking talent to entice businesses to buy his fried chicken. According to Insider, it took until 1952 for his delicious chicken to make its way into another restaurant, with Sanders earning $0.04 for every piece sold.

This initial success came from a restaurant in Salt Lake City, Utah, the first Kentucky Fried Chicken franchise, which was owned by Sanders' friend, Pete Harmon. It was at this restaurant that the iconic bargain bucket was first developed (via History). Upon this success, Sanders, who was 65, took to the road in his 1946 Ford, traveling the country, single-handedly signing up new franchisees. The Colonel gradually recruited many more establishments to stock his original fried chicken, resulting in an impressive chain of franchisees that helped to build the massive success that KFC is today.