The Real Reason Colonel Sanders Threw Gravy On The Floor

Unlike other food mascots, Colonel Sanders isn't a fictional character: He was the actual founder of KFC. Fans may be aware of the Colonel's humble beginnings, marked by low pay and nights spent sleeping in his car while looking for franchise owners to sell his secret-recipe fried chicken, per The Washington Post. When KFC finally succeeded and became a multi-billion-dollar business, he made sure it prevailed through the careful monitoring of every little aspect of its operations.

There are stories of the Colonel, who died in 1980, sauntering into existing and potential KFC branches to check up on the quality of the chicken, cleanliness, service, and more. He was known to reject franchise offers to people who didn't meet his standards — even before talking to them (via The New Yorker). Even after selling his company, he was exceptionally active in quality control and made his voice heard about every detail. One business aspect the Colonel watched especially closely was KFC's gravy. Story has it that the condiment often ended up on the floor under his watch. But why?

Sanders flung gravy he didn't like onto the floor

According to the stories told by people who met Colonel Sanders, the KFC founder had an extremely strict outlook on gravy. As Dennis Overbey, who worked as the manager of the first KFC restaurant, told the Chicago Tribune, the Colonel would visit various locations with a tasting spoon in his pocket to sample the kitchen's gravy. "If he didn't like the gravy, he'd throw it on the floor, and you'd have to clean up the mess," Overbey said. 

Sanders didn't relax on the gravy issue in his later years — instead, he grew even tenser on the subject. After he sold his business in 1964, KFC rejected Colonel Sanders' gravy recipe. A company executive explained to The New Yorker that it simply took too much time and money to replicate. "Let's face it, the Colonel's gravy was fantastic, but you had to be a Rhodes Scholar to cook it," they said.

Unsurprisingly, Colonel Sanders was not happy about the disappearance of his gravy recipe. Long after his days as boss of the company, he continued to visit various locations to critique the new gravy. The New Yorker didn't mention him "throwing" the condiment, but the publication did hear from witnesses that he would hit furniture with his cane in frustration after tasting the "slop." He was so vocal about his dissatisfaction with the gravy, in fact, that one KFC store in Kentucky sued him for libel.