KFC is an American fast food restaurant chain headquartered in Louisville, Kentucky that specializes in fried chicken. It is the world's second-largest restaurant chain after McDonald's, with 22,621 locations globally in 150 countries as of December 2019. The chain is a subsidiary of Yum! Brands, a restaurant company that also owns the Pizza Hut, Taco Bell and WingStreet chains.
KFC was founded by Colonel 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 to this day. However, the company's rapid expansion overwhelmed the aging Sanders and he sold it to a group of investors led by John Y. Brown Jr. and Jack C. Massey in 1964.
KFC was one of the first American fast-food chains to expand internationally, opening outlets in Canada, the United Kingdom, Mexico and Jamaica by the mid-1960s. Throughout the 1970s and 1980s, it 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, which was taken over by the R. J. Reynolds food and tobacco conglomerate; that company sold the chain to PepsiCo. The chain continued to expand overseas, however, and in 1987 it became the first Western restaurant chain to open in China. It 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.