Special Report

The KFC Capitals of America

KFC (Kentucky Fried Chicken) is the world’s second-largest restaurant chain (as measured by sales) after McDonald’s, with more than 24,000 restaurants (as of 2019) in more than 150 countries — almost 4,000 of them spread across the United States. (Check where it falls among the most successful restaurant chains in America.)

To determine which states have the most KFCs, both total and per capita, 24/7 Tempo reviewed data collected by NiceRx, a patient assistance program and medication access company, using numbers for total fast-food restaurants taken from the U.S. Census Bureau and tracking the nation’s ten most popular chains as determined by ScrapeHero.com. (Population figures are five-year estimates from the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2019 American Community Survey.) 

We then ranked the states by their per capita KFC population per 100,000 residents, lowest to highest, and discovered that the winners are Mississippi and Kentucky, with 2.3 restaurants per 100,000 people. The No. 3 and 4 spots are claimed by West Virginia, with 2.1 KFC restaurants per 100,000 people, and Arkansas, with 2. Ties were broken using the total number of KFC restaurants in the state.

Click here to see the KFC capitals of America

It’s not surprising that Kentucky ranks so high, as the company is headquartered in Louisville — and it was originally named for the state. Also, fried chicken is a very popular dish across the South in general — so much so that it’s sometimes referred to as “Southern-fried.” (It’s definitely one of the iconic Southern foods every American should try.)

In 1991, Kentucky Fried Chicken rebranded as KFC, and there were various reports as to why. Some said the company wanted to drop the word “fried” to appeal to more health-conscious consumers, others that it was because the Commonwealth of Kentucky wanted licensing fees. Still others said that it was simply because of a corporate preference for something shorter and snappier. Whatever the reason for the change, it’s known to millions of consumers today by both names.