John Y. Brown was famous for many reasons. One is spelled K-F-C.

Restaurant Rewind: Yes, Harland Sanders started the brand. But Brown made it a powerhouse.

The restaurant industry lost one of its pioneers last week with the death of John Y. Brown. Many in the business may not recognize that name, given that he bowed out of the limelight about two decades ago. But they’ll surely know of his major success, a chicken chain called KFC.

Brown was to Kentucky Fried Chicken what Ray Kroc was to McDonald’s or Howard Schultz is to Starbucks. He built the chains from a loose group of about 600 diner-style restaurants operating under a variety of names, into a 3,500-unit behemoth.

But that wasn’t the only concept that Brown put on the map. He also co-founded Kenny Rogers Roasters, and helped to build at least five other restaurant chains.

Along the way, he served as governor of Kentucky, owner of the Boston Celtics and the husband of media star Phyllis George.

Sound intriguing? Learn more about the giant of the business from this week’s edition of Restaurant Rewind. Download the episode and all installments of the walk back in time from wherever you get your podcasts.


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