Renovations, expansions planned for original KFC

Published 9:59 am Thursday, November 28, 2019

CORBIN (KT) – Kentucky Fried Chicken corporate officials in Louisville announced Wednesday that the original KFC in Corbin will be undergoing a renovation and expansion project beginning this week.

Officials said franchise owner JRN, Inc., headquartered in Columbia, Tennessee, has planned the nine-month project that will include:

Harland’s Herb and Spice room that celebrates the 11 herbs and spices Colonel Sanders’ original recipe chicken.

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A historical KFC timeline that celebrates the legacy of Colonel Sanders.

It will be part of the expanded museum space.

“It is absolutely super exciting,” said Corbin Tourism Director Maggy Kriebel.

“Not only will we be able to draw more people to Corbin, but it will enable us to provide a much more well-rounded and engaging experience,” she said.

Officials stated that the restaurant will remain open during the renovation.

Sanders Café, located at 688 Hwy 25 in Corbin, is the birthplace of KFC’s Original Recipe. It is where KFC’s founder, Colonel Harland Sanders, perfected his secret recipe of 11 herbs and spices more than 75 years ago. That recipe is still served today in KFCs everywhere.

Originally established in 1937 as a gas station along U.S. Route 25, Sanders Court eventually expanded to include a motel and café where the Colonel offered guests a hot meal and a place to rest along their journey.

KFC franchisees Linda and John R. Neal purchased the Corbin KFC in 1973, and following a renovation, they reopened it as the Harland Sanders Café and Museum on Sept. 9, 1990, which would have been the Colonel’s 100th birthday.

The restaurant continues to be owned and operated by JRN, Inc., headquartered in Columbia, Tenn. Despite the passing of John R. Neal, JRN remains a family-operated company with his sons becoming second-generation KFC franchisees.

“We grew up in the KFC business and to be the caretaker of the place where it all began is truly special,” said Tyrone Neal, President, JRN, Inc. “We welcome thousands of visitors from all over the world to Corbin each year to see the birthplace of the Secret Recipe, and we want them to have a KFC experience like none other. That’s what this renovation is all about.”

Today, the restaurant features the original Sanders Café dining room, showcases a model of the Colonel’s original kitchen and a replica hotel room. Those elements will keep their historical integrity and receive some updates. Renovation plans also consist of a 3,000 square foot addition, which includes a dining area expansion that will offer seating for up to 132 guests.

In 2007, JRN purchased the Colonel’s former home and property, which is adjacent to the restaurant and is also undergoing renovations.

“The Neals have been incredible partners and their commitment to maintaining the Harland Sanders Café and Museum in Corbin as a historical landmark is unwavering,” said Brian Cahoe, chief development officer, KFC U.S. “This renovation will give visitors from all over the world an incredible KFC experience, while preserving the historic integrity of the location. We are grateful to the Neals for their vision and for their dedication to preserving the place where it all began.”

The Sanders Café was owned and operated by Colonel Sanders from 1940-1956 and was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1990, which also marks the year when it was last renovated.