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Salt Lake original: first Kentucky Fried Chicken restaurant franchise

The now iconic KFC paper bucket at the original KFC
The now iconic KFC paper bucket at the original KFC

Leon W. “Pete” Harmon, a native a Granger and a graduate of Cyprus High School in Magna, pioneered the first Kentucky Fried Chicken franchise and helped build one of the world’s most prolific chicken brands.

In 1941, Pete Harmon and his wife Arlene relocated from San Francisco back to Utah and opened their first restaurant, The Do Drop Inn, with a total capital investment of $15. Located at 3890 South S. Street, the Do Drop Inn sat only 15 people and was a small hamburger and root beer stand.

However, the restaurant succeeded and every year Harmon would add to and expand both the menu and the restaurant’s building, except for his two years in the Army when he served in the infantry during World War II. Eventually, he renamed the building Harmon’s Café and had amassed a seating capacity of 240 people, plus car service.

The biggest addition to the menu took place in 1952 with the addition of “Kentucky fried chicken.”

Colonel Harland Sanders had perfected his chicken recipe through the 1930s and 1940s and operated his own restaurant, the Sanders Court & Café, in Corbin, Kentucky. When Interstate 75 bypassed Corbin, Colonel Sanders sold his restaurant and traveled the U.S. to sell his chicken recipe to other restaurant owners.

The first to accept his offer was Pete Harman in Salt Lake City. With a handshake agreement, Pete Harman agreed to pay Colonel Sanders five cents for every chicken sold. For $3.50, customers received 14 pieces of chicken, mashed potatoes, rolls and gravy.

With the success of the handshake agreement, in 1952 Colonel Harland Sanders incorporated his company under the name Kentucky Fried Chicken.

By the early 1960s, Kentucky Fried Chicken was sold in over 600 franchised outlets.

The partnership between Harman and Sanders was very successful. Harman invented the famous “to-go” paper bucket, developed training manuals and product guides for other franchisees, and capitalized on the “Finger-lickin’ good” motto.

The original and first Kentucky Fried Chicken (Harmon’s Café) at 3900 S. State in Salt Lake City was demolished in 2004 and rebuilt in the same location as a museum and an updated restaurant.

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