Love ’em or hate ’em, you can’t deny the expansive reach of Kentucky Fried Chicken, otherwise known as KFC (and, possibly to some young readers, KFC only thanks to one marketing ploy in the 1990s). While KFC got its humble start in the tiny, tiny town of Corbin, Kentucky, the restaurant’s global influence is mammoth, made possible in part due to the famous (or possibly infamous, depending on your view) Colonel Sanders’ tenacity and simple dedication to good fried chicken. Now, there are more than 24,000 KFC restaurants in more than 145 countries, with a new KFC restaurant opening, on average, every six hours. KFC employs 800,000-plus team members and two-thirds of the world’s KFC restaurants are yet to be built.
The KFC menu has changed considerably over the years and differs equally depending on where in the world you live. Still, you can find the famed red and white bucket of KFC original fried chicken, with its secret 11 herbs and spices, at every eatery, with the bucket menu item representing 35 percent of the chain’s global sales. Then, depending on where you are, you might find spicy chicken sandwiches, fish sandwiches, or even Blizzard-like desserts called "Krushers."
Learn more about these significant KFC menu items and more, with a look at how KFC’s menu has changed over the last near-century of its existence.
1930–1951: Colonel Sanders gets a slow start in Central Kentucky
The story of KFC is, at least at the beginning, also the story of Colonel Sanders. Born in 1890, Sanders got a late start in life, working all kinds of jobs before eventually taking over a service station in Kentucky, at the age of 40 in 1930. Things were not exactly easy over the years, but eventually, Sanders grew a name for himself thanks to the fried chicken he would offer at said service station. The location becomes the OG KFC, then named Sanders Court & Cafe, and over time grew into a roadside attraction with dine-in seating for 142 patrons.
The menu focused on fried chicken (of course) and, over the next decade, Sanders continues to perfect his recipe of 11 herbs and spices that season the Original Recipe variant of fried chicken that KFC still offers today. However, that wasn’t the only thing that made Sanders’ chicken stand out; he also had a unique way of frying his poultry, which guaranteed a consistent fry every time, while also quickening the frying process, so workers could churn out more chicken to more patrons more quickly.
1952–1956: Kentucky Fried Chicken goes to Utah
Once Colonel Sanders had finally hit on his path to success in life, at the ripe old age of 62, he decided to take his restaurant idea on the road and opened the first KFC franchise location. But rather than offering the franchise opportunity to his friends and neighbors in nearby Kentucky locales, he headed a little further afield — going to Utah to open the first KFC franchise location in Salt Lake City.
The first franchise Kentucky Fried Chicken menu wasn’t that different from the menus you’ll see today. Somewhat limited, the first menus included boxes of fried chicken in various quantities alongside the still-popular sides of chicken gravy, mashed potatoes, and coleslaw. Instead of the iconic KFC biscuits that you’ll find on the menu today, though, the older combos featured hot rolls and honey instead. A "thrift box" of nine chicken pieces to feed three to four people was just $2.25, while the "regular box" with three pieces of chicken, whipped potatoes, gravy, a hot roll, and coleslaw came out to just $1.10.