An off the cuff remark by one the restaurant managers became the slogan for many years, when the franchisee was licking his fingers.
In the 1930s, Harland Sanders, the founder of KFC, maintained a service station in Corbin, Kentucky, serving hungry travellers. In 1935, his cooking had become well-known, and Governor Ruby Laffoon named him a Kentucky Colonel (the highest honour the state can award) in recognition of his contribution.
Sanders shifted his business to the opposite side of the road to boost capacity as more people came in merely to eat. By the early 1950s, he’d mastered the secret blend of herbs and spices that KFC still uses today. He also franchised his restaurant concept, and it was a franchisee from Phoenix, Arizona, named Dave Harman, who came up with the company’s famous motto.
Harman did TV commercials for his restaurant in the afternoons between movies, but due to a stroke, he was unable to talk coherently, so his restaurant manager, Ken Harbough, stepped in to perform the ads instead. Because Harman still wanted to be in the commercials, he would join Harbough to the TV station and bring a platter of chicken to dine in the background while the commercials were being shot. However, when one of the commercials aired, a woman called the TV station, yelling loudly, “Mr Harman is licking his fingers!” According to folklore, Harbough responded spontaneously, “Well, it’s finger-lickin’ good.”
By the 1960s, the corporation had adopted the slogan on a nationwide level. The catchphrase, along with an illustrated head and shoulders photo of the Colonel, quickly became part of the franchise’s branding, and both the phrase and Sanders’ image have since become synonymous with the brand.