Colonel Harland David Sanders (September 9, 1890 – December 16, 1980) was an American businessman, best known for founding fast food chicken restaurant chain Kentucky Fried Chicken (also known as KFC) and later acting as the company’s brand ambassador and symbol. His name and image are still symbols of the company. The title ‘colonel’ was honorary – a Kentucky Colonel – not the military rank.
Sanders held a number of jobs in his early life, such as steam engine stoker, insurance salesman and filling station operator. He began selling fried chicken from his roadside restaurant in North Corbin, Kentucky, during the Great Depression. During that time Sanders developed his “secret recipe” and his patented method of cooking chicken in a pressure fryer. Sanders recognized the potential of the restaurant franchising concept, and the first KFC franchise opened in South Salt Lake, Utah in 1952. When his original restaurant closed, he devoted himself full-time to franchising his fried chicken throughout the country.
The company’s rapid expansion across the United States and overseas became overwhelming for Sanders. In 1964, then 73 years old, he sold the company to a group of investors led by John Y. Brown Jr. and Jack C. Massey for $2 million ($16.2 million today). However, he retained control of operations in Canada, and he became a salaried brand ambassador for Kentucky Fried Chicken. In his later years, he became highly critical of the food served by KFC restaurants, as he believed they had cut costs and allowed quality to deteriorate.