The man responsible for bringing Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC) to the United Kingdom over 50 years ago, says the product is dreadful and he’ll never set foot in one of their restaurants again.
Mr. Allen said: “Instead of staying with one good thing that was sellable, they have tried to compete with the other fast food units. They should have just stuck with the chicken.”
The Scotsman reports:
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Raymond Allen became a personal friend of Harland ‘the Colonel’ Saunders after meeting during a conference in Chicago 50 years ago.
Shortly afterwards he opened the first franchise in the UK in Preston, Lancashire and helped establish the business across Britain in its early years.
Mr Allen still has a personal hand-written copy of the recipe which is believed to be made up of 11 herbs and spices – and is a closely guarded secret by the firm.
But the 87-year-old, from Jersey in the Channel islands, said the company has strayed so far from its original concept it’s been “ruined” and would never set foot in one again.
He said: “We have got one where I now live, but I would not go in there. I don’t use it and I think it is dreadful. The company has ruined the product.
“Instead of staying with one good thing that was sellable, they have tried to compete with the other fast food units. They should have just stuck with the chicken.”
His wife Shirley, 84, said: “We tried KFC only once about a year ago. We had the traditional original chicken but there were so many different products it was difficult to know what to order. I don’t think we will go back.”
After the chance meeting in Chicago, Mr Allen helped Sanders establish the UK side of his empire while he was still a small-time restaurant owner in Louisville, Kentucky.
He also gave him valuable advice on the legal side of the business including patents and was paid to seek out suitable locations for other branches across the world.
He said: “The Colonel was a very kind man, who was very forthright.
“But at the time we met he was a small-time Southern state restaurant owner, and I knew a lot about patents or registered trademarks.
“We had heard about him before the meeting. But when we first met him, he had only one franchisee in America who sold the chicken as a menu item in his restaurant.
“We were in the fast food business and thought it would be the ideal product to sell in a takeaway.
“We had several Wimpy bars so decided to convert them into KFCs. That is what we did with the first one in Preston.”
Mr Allen said he has a personal hand-written copy of the secret recipe for the unique taste of KFC chicken which is believed to be made up of 11 herbs and spices.
He said: “It is a lengthy recipe. I think there are 11 herbs and spices but I can’t remember it off the top of my head so I couldn’t tell you even if I wanted to.
“But it is locked away in a safe in a bank. We don’t really get asked much about it. Not many people know about our involvement in it.
“We are a low key and private family and don’t often talk about it. I have no idea how much it is worth but I would never sell it.”
At the peak of Mr Allen’s expansion of the franchise, he was opening a new shop every week through cash flow.
He said: “We were in a race against time with McDonalds as we both wanted to get the best sites.
“We wanted to expand a bit quicker than that so I walked the streets of London to go to a bank.
“We needed “100,000 trying to raise the money – but all the banks said there was no future in the business.”
His company KFC UK Ltd, was eventually able to obtain a loan from Heublein Inc, a USA company which at the time owned Smirnoff Vodka.
He said: “They saw how well we were doing and lent us the money on condition that we sold the business once we had opened 100 units. That was what we did.”
Mr Sanders had started his KFC business in 1930 at a service station in Corbin, Kentucky, where he began cooking for hungry travellers who stopped there for fuel, using a secret recipe for the coating of the restaurant’s fried chicken.
It became so popular that by 1935 the Governor of Kentucky made Mr Sanders a Kentucky Colonel in recognition of his promotion of the American state.
Following the meeting Mr Allen acquired the rights to expand the KFC franchise outside the US, and returned home with big plans.
He said: “It was slow to catch on at first because people didn’t know what it was.
“In the UK in those days chicken was something you ate for Sunday dinner. It was way before its time. We had to give it away to passers-by initially.
“We would only use fresh chickens, and they had to be two and a half pounds in weight. It was initially difficult to source the chickens because of the demand.”
In recognition of his achievements in business, Mr Allen was named a Freeman of the City of London in 1979 and was commissioned a Kentucky Colonel in 1965.
Mr and Mrs Allen sold the business in 1973.
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