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KFC Case Study and Success Story

If you are a non-vegetarian, odds are high that you are a huge fan of KFC already. We are pretty sure that you visit your nearest KFC restaurant at least once or twice a month?

Don’t you? Oh, come on! Don’t lie!

Although KFC offers a wide variety of non-veg products in India, it is best known for its fried chicken and zinger burgers. In this case study and success story, we will go back in history and see how and where KFC started, the methods that lead to its success and the hurdles faced by the company in its journey thus far. So let’s begin with this finger lickin’ good story right away.

The background of KFC Founder

KFC was founded by an entrepreneur named Harland Sanders. Some biographies suggest that Sanders was born in the year 1890 and spent his childhood on a farm in Indiana.

Reports suggest that his father died when Sanders was only 6 years old, leaving the latter with the responsibility of taking care of a younger brother and a sister. Sanders’ mother spent days working for long hours; however, her profession is still debated. According to a report in the The New Yorker, Sanders was a decent enough chef by the age of 10.

His mother remarried when he was 12 years old. However, the kids’ stepfather wasn’t kind enough to them; as a result, Sanders was sent for work on a farm 80 miles away, while his younger brother was sent to live with an aunt.

Dropping out of School

Sanders soon realized that he was not the right fit for school. So, he dropped out while in seventh grade and a few years later started taking up jobs such as operating a ferry boat, selling insurance, marketing tyres, stoking the steam engines of trains and making lighting systems.

Setting up a Restaurant

With the money made from all the above-mentioned jobs, Harland Sanders bought a small place at a service station in Corbin, Kentucky in 1930. Here, he started to serve classic southern dishes to travellers.

The place soon became popular for its cuisine and Sanders started to make a decent sum of money through quality food preparations. Soon, he acquired the complete service station and expanded his restaurant.

The Breakthrough

In the year 1939, he carried out a small experiment with a new kind of pressure cooker – not what we use at our homes these days. He fried his chicken with as many as 11 herbs and spices and found that this new pressure cooker was capable of delivering the ideal taste that he was looking for.

Thanks to this new mode of cooking, his restaurant enjoyed an overwhelming success for the next decade or so. The governor of Kentucky was so impressed with Sanders’ effort and hard work that he decided to confer the title of “Colonel” – the highest title a state can offer – upon the latter in 1950.

Two years later, in 1952, Sanders signed a deal with his friend, Pete Harman, who was willing to sell Sanders’ dish as “Kentucky Fried Chicken” through his own restaurant. Sanders received a 4-cent royalty on every successful sale. The success of this deal prompted him to sign similar contracts with several other restaurants.

A stumbling block

By this time, Sanders had two means of making money; first, through his own restaurant; and second through royalties from local restaurants with whom he had shared his recipes. In 1952, however, the construction of a new highway rendered his restaurant with almost no customers. As a result, he sold the location, though at a loss, and started to reconsider his future plans with a $105 monthly social security and small royalties from local restaurants.

After careful consideration, Colonel Harland Sanders decided to follow a complete franchise model, rather than setting up new outlets of his own. So he packed his stuff including a few pressure cookers, flour, spices and herbs and hit the road with his wife accompanying him.

On the journey, he would stop and offer to cook free fried chicken for the restaurant owner/manager. If they liked the taste they could make a deal straightaway. Proceeding with this strategy, Sanders managed to get nearly 600 restaurants to serve Kentucky Fried Chicken – from both the United States and Canada – over the course of a few years.

Selling off franchise rights

In October 1963, a young lawyer named John Y. Brown and a venture capitalist, Jack Massey approached Colonel Sanders with an offer for full-fledged franchise rights. Sanders was a little hesitant at first; however, after weeks of persuasion, he agreed to sell the franchise rights for a sum of $2 million (roughly equivalent to $16 million in today’s currency).

According to a report published by BusinessInsider, under the franchise contract, it was agreed that Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC) would set up restaurants across the globe and will, under no circumstances, compromise the original recipe.

The Colonel was to have a lifetime salary of $75,000, a place on the board, a major share in the Canadian KFC outlets and the opportunity to serve as the company’s brand ambassador.

The Aftermath

Many business experts believe that Sanders should have asked for a better deal. But, it seems that Sanders was never after money and was just looking for global fame for his quality food preparations. This can be validated by his constant grumbling of the poor quality gravy that the “new” KFC was offering. He spent the latter years of his life appearing in KFC commercials, talk shows and interviews.

Up until his death in 1980, Colonel Sanders maintained an active lifestyle, travelling long distances to promote the brand and taking feedback from patrons. The University of Houston has honoured him by featuring his name in the University’s Hospitality Industry hall of fame.

The present rules for KFC restaurants across the globe

Colonel Sanders wrote down a few rules before handing over the rights. Over the years some more additions have been made. So all KFC restaurants must follow these rules:

Only a pressure cooker should be used to cook the chicken. No other utensil is allowed.

Once the chicken has been cooked, it should not be removed from the cooker for at least 15 minutes.

All chicken pieces should be 8cm wide and must weight roughly 300g

All chickens shouldn’t be younger than 60 days or older than 70 days.

The chickens must remain marinated overnight before undergoing any sort of process

The Modern-Day KFC

KFC now has outlets in more than 120 nations and is, in fact, the second-biggest restaurant chain after McDonald’s. Due to the COVID-19 Outbreak many KFC outlets in the US and Canada removed the tagline “Finger lickin’ good” from its

banners, posters and commercials. KFC’s parent company, Yum! Brands, also operates Pizza Hut and Taco Bell in India.


The story of Colonel Sanders is an inspiring one in its own right. It shows us that one can be of any age in order to run a successful business. It also inspires us to value quality more over money. We hope that you find this KFC success story useful and highly motivating.

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