Kentucky Fried Chicken opened on Friday in Nairobi at the Junction shopping mall to such huge crowds that I fear many westerners will think that the crowds are the hungry starving Kenyans from the Eastern and northern part of the country queuing up for free food.
Kenyans are an interesting lot rushing to fill their bellies with all that fat. Unaware of the fact that the popular brand has fled the increasingly health-conscious west to pitch camp on the continent that loves everything that is American. I think it is possible to sell human waste very successfully in Kenya as long as you can convince people it is from America.
Interestingly the local press has completely missed the fact that KFC have been here before but packed and left in the early 70s. Now they are back to fatten naïve Kenyans.
Don’t get me wrong. It is not that I am allergic to chicken. It is just that I eat it sparingly and next time I am in Nairobi the first item on my list will NOT be to rush to KFC just so that I may have something to post on my Facebook status.
But friends, I am still very excited about KFC coming to Kenya. And the reason is the inspiring business story behind the world’s largest quick-service chicken restaurant chain.
The founder is one Colonel Sanders, a man who was not even a real colonel.
Born Harland Sanders, his dad died when he was only six years old, and, since his mother worked, he was required to cook for his family and that is how his long career as a cook started. He dropped out of school in seventh grade to help provide for his siblings. But when his mother remarried, he ran away from home because his stepfather beat him. Sanders falsified his date of birth and enlisted in the United States Army at the age of sixteen, completing his entire service commitment in Cuba. In his early years, Sanders held many jobs, including: steamboat pilot, insurance salesman, railroad fireman and farmer amongst many others.
At the age of 40, Sanders cooked chicken dishes and other meals for people who stopped at his service station in Corbin, Kentucky. Since he did not have a restaurant, he served customers in his adjacent living quarters. His local popularity grew, and Sanders moved to a motel and 142 seat restaurant, later Harland Sanders Café and Museum. Over the next nine years he developed his "secret recipe" for frying chicken in a pressure fryer that cooked the chicken much faster than pan frying.
Sanders was given the honorary title "Kentucky Colonel" in 1935 by Governor Ruby Laffoon. He was "re-commissioned" in 1950 by Governor Lawrence Wetherby.
It wasn't until 1950 that Sanders began developing his distinctive appearance, growing his trademark mustache and goatee and donning a white suit and string tie. He never wore anything else in public during the last 20 years of his life, using a heavy wool suit in the winter and a light cotton suit in the summer.
At the age of 65, Sanders' was broke. His small store had failed due to the new Interstate 75 reducing his restaurant's customer traffic. He took $105 from his first Social Security check and began going door to door selling his recipe. It was very hard work for such an old man and rejection was constant so much so that he was forced to live off Social Security. But amazingly he never gave up. He just kept on knocking on doors with his cooker and spices trying to convince restaurants to pay him to use his recipe. Smaller restaurants were willing to pay him a small fee for every chicken sold and, by 1960, Sanders had over 400 "franchises".
Sanders sold the Kentucky Fried Chicken Corporation in 1964 for $2 million to a partnership of Kentucky businessmen headed by John Y. Brown, Jr. The deal did not include the Canadian operations.
There are fewer tales that are more inspirational than the Sander story. Enjoy your fried chicken this weekend but head to the gym immediately after.
Amazing quotes from Colonel Sanders
I made a resolve then that I was going to amount to something if I could. And no hours, nor amount of labor, nor amount of money would deter me from giving the best that there was in me. And I have done that ever since, and I win by it. I know.
There's no reason to be the richest man in the cemetery. You can't do any business from there.
You got to like your work. You have got to like what you are doing, you have got to be doing something worthwhile so you can like it.. because it is worthwhile, that it makes a difference, don't you see?
Ambitious KFC plans for Kenya and Africa
Another inspirational business tale: How I turned around my ailing Nairobi business in 7 days flat