Kentucky Fried Chicken, commonly known as KFC, is an iconic global fast-food brand that has become synonymous with crispy fried chicken.
Founded by Colonel Harland Sanders in the 1930s, KFC has grown from a humble roadside restaurant in Corbin, Kentucky, into a worldwide sensation with thousands of outlets in over 145 countries. But who owns KFC today, and how has its ownership evolved over the years?
KFC’s journey began with its founder, Colonel Harland Sanders, born in 1890 in Henryville, Indiana.
From railroad fireman to gas station operator, Sanders found his calling at a small roadside eatery in Corbin, Kentucky.
There, he honed his secret blend of 11 herbs and spices, revolutionizing fast food. By the 1950s,
Sanders franchised his restaurant, birthing Kentucky Fried Chicken.
In KFC’s early franchising years, Colonel Sanders was its face, donning the iconic white suit and black tie, personally promoting his brand.
As it expanded, franchisees embraced the KFC name, recipe, and rigorous quality standards.
Corporate ownership shifts ensued, with Heublein Inc. acquiring KFC in 1971, setting the stage for global expansion. PepsiCo’s acquisition in 1986 brought KFC into the “fast-food trinity” alongside Taco Bell and Pizza Hut.
The transformative spin-off in 1997 birthed Yum! Brands, propelling KFC to a global fast-food leader.
It thrived in Asia and beyond, adapting menus to local tastes under Yum!’s ownership.
KFC Entrance in Kenya
On the afternoon of August 12, 2011, an eclectic mix of diners converged on one of Nairobi’s most popular shopping malls, setting the stage for a transformative moment in Kenya’s culinary landscape.
In less than an hour, what had initially been a disparate crowd coalesced into lengthy queues snaking outside the newly opened Kentucky Fried Chicken restaurant (KFC), marking its debut in East Africa.
The atmosphere was electric, pulsating with anticipation.
The media had relentlessly hyped KFC’s arrival as a groundbreaking development heralding a new era in the fast-food industry.
Scores of Kenyans eagerly lined up to savor the globally renowned deep-fried chicken.
KFC, whose brand name is under the ownership of Yum! Brands – the world’s largest fast-food restaurant company, headquartered in the United States – boasts an expansive portfolio that includes Taco Bell, Pizza Hut, and Long John Silver, among others, with a global reach that stretches across continents.
The backdrop for KFC’s entrance into Kenya was a noteworthy increase in purchasing power among the country’s burgeoning middle class over the preceding years.
This socioeconomic shift had ignited a frenzy of investment in shopping malls by retailers and real estate developers, driven by the newfound spending potential in an otherwise struggling economy.
As KFC’s inaugural East African outlet bustled with patrons, it became evident that, for the majority, this was their maiden encounter with the brand.
A smaller fraction had previously savored American fast-food and dined at KFC outlets abroad.
However, all shared a common sentiment of pride that the global culinary giant had chosen Kenya over other East African nations.
Preceding KFC’s foray into Kenya, various South African fast-food brands, including Steers and Debonairs, had already established a presence.
Nonetheless, it was KFC’s entry that sparked a profound transformation in the fast-food industry landscape.
Building upon its South African foundation, where it had operated since 1971, KFC set its sights on Kenya, ultimately serving as a launching pad for a multitude of international fast-food brands, many of which hailed from the United States.
The subsequent years witnessed the arrival of Subway in 2013, Cold Stone Creamery and Domino’s Pizza in the following year, and Pizza Hut and Burger King in 2015 and 2016, respectively.
By this juncture, KFC had established a foothold with 11 outlets in Nairobi, including one with a drive-through, and another branch located outside the capital.
Subsequently, KFC pursued aggressive expansion across East Africa, boasting a total of 22 restaurants in Kenya, eight in Uganda, and five in Tanzania by 2019.