Back in 1991 a little chicken restaurant chain called “Kentucky Fried Chicken” changed their name to KFC. They were so named back in 1952 by the late Colonel Harland Sanders, a southern Gentleman born and raised in… well… Indiana. (Though he was a Kentucky Colonel, as was Dave Thomas who owned and operated several Kentucky Fried Chicken franchises before he created “Wendy’s.” It was Dave who came up with both the paper bucket of chicken as well as the rotating bucket sign that used to be outside every Kentucky Fried restaurant in the world.)
A rumor quickly popped up over the name change, to the effect that the U.S. government had forced Kentucky Fried to drop the word “chicken” from their moniker. As the gossips would have it, the franchise business was genetically creating monster chickens in vats with gigantic breasts, several pairs of legs, and no heads. The United States Food and Drug Agency had supposedly deemed these frankenstein birds not to be actual chickens, and the name to be false advertising. Though the things done to grow KFC’s chickens isn’t very appetizing, (or particularly healthy) the frankenchicken myth was just that, a myth.
(Added bonus for regular readers of HOLE! A food lab that analyzed a packet of KFC’s famous “secret seasonings” for their Original Recipe fried chicken discovered that it consisted entirely of sugar, flour, salt, black pepper, and monosodium glutamate!)
At the time, the restaurant chain cited three reasons for the name change. They did say they wanted to back away from “chicken,” as they were diversifying their menu and would be offering so much more. “Fried” was becoming a health concern in the public mind at the time and held a negative image. Finally they said that in order to appeal to the “hip new modern youth,” they needed a shorter, sleeker name.
The truth of course was none of these things.
(Another HOLE bonus! KFC meals are the most commonly requested “last meals” by death row inmates! I guess nobody there is worried about “bad” cholesterol.”)
In fact, back in 1990, the State of Kentucky trademarked their name. (Anybody remember when The Run for the Roses was called the Kentucky Derby? After a year of legal battling over a name they had been using for half a century, Kentucky Fried Chicken essentially said “screw you guys, I’m going home,” picked up their ball and left. They changed their name to KFC, timed it to happen with some new menu items and a logo change, and viola! New corporate chicken!
Most amusing to me, is that since last November, (5 months ago) KFC reached an “arrangement” with the State of Kentucky involving an undisclosed sum of money, and if you go to their website, you will find the old “Kentucky Fried Chicken” logo. I imagine that’s just the prelude to officially changing the company name back, but we’ll see. If they do, they’ll have to find a new way to explain it to their customers. What are they going to say — we’re going back to selling chicken?