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KFC (the name was originally an initialism for Kentucky Fried Chicken) is a fast food restaurant chain that specializes in fried chicken and is headquartered in Louisville, Kentucky, in the United States. It is the world's second largest restaurant chain (as measured by sales) after McDonald's, with 18,875 outlets in 118 countries and territories as of December 2013. The company is a subsidiary of Yum! Brands, a restaurant company that also owns the Pizza Hut and Taco Bell chains.
KFC was founded by Harland Sanders, an entrepreneur who began selling fried chicken from his roadside restaurant in Corbin, Kentucky, during the Great Depression. Sanders identified the potential of the restaurant franchising concept, and the first "Kentucky Fried Chicken" franchise opened in Utah in 1952. KFC popularized chicken in the fast food industry, diversifying the market by challenging the established dominance of the hamburger. By branding himself as "Colonel Sanders," Harland became a prominent figure of American cultural history, and his image remains widely used in KFC advertising. However, the company's rapid expansion saw it overwhelm the ageing Sanders, and in 1964 he sold the company to a group of investors led by John Y. Brown, Jr. and Jack C. Massey.
KFC was one of the first fast food chains to expand internationally, opening outlets in the United Kingdom, Mexico, and Jamaica by the mid-1960s. Throughout the 1970s and 1980s, KFC experienced mixed fortunes domestically, as it went through a series of changes in corporate ownership with little or no experience in the restaurant business. In the early 1970s, KFC was sold to the spirits distributor Heublein, who were taken over by the R.J. Reynolds food and tobacco conglomerate, who sold the chain to PepsiCo. The chain continued to expand overseas however, and in 1987 KFC became the first Western restaurant chain to open in China. The chain has since expanded rapidly in China, which is now the company's single largest market. PepsiCo spun off its restaurants division as Tricon Global Restaurants, which later changed its name to Yum! Brands.
KFC's original product is pressure fried chicken pieces, seasoned with Sanders' recipe of 11 herbs and spices. The constituents of the recipe represent a notable trade secret. Larger portions of fried chicken are served in a cardboard "bucket," which has become a well known feature of the chain since it was first introduced by franchisee Pete Harman in 1957. Since the early 1990s, KFC has expanded its menu to offer other chicken products such as chicken fillet burgers and wraps, as well as salads and side dishes, such as French fries and coleslaw, desserts, and soft drinks, the latter often supplied by PepsiCo. KFC is known for the slogan "finger lickin' good," which has since been replaced by "Nobody does chicken like KFC" and "So good."
Harland Sanders was born in 1890 and raised on a farm outside Henryville, Indiana. When Harland was five years old, his father died, forcing his mother to work at a canning plant. This left Harland, as the eldest son, to care for his two younger siblings. After he reached seven years of age, his mother taught him how to cook. After leaving the family home at the age of 13, Sanders passed through several professions, with mixed success. In 1930, he took over a Shell filling station on US Route 25 just outside North Corbin, Kentucky, a small town on the edge of the Appalachian Mountains. It was here that he first served to travelers the recipes that he had learned as a child: fried chicken and other dishes such as steaks and country ham. After four years of serving from his own dining room table, Sanders purchased the larger filling station on the other side of the road and expanded to six tables. By 1936, this had proven successful enough for Sanders to be given the honorary title of Kentucky colonel by Governor Ruby Laffoon. In 1937 he expanded his restaurant to 142 seats, and added a motel he purchased across the street, naming it Sanders Court & Café.