The Latham family has roots in the industry stretching back to 1965 when Chairman Harry Latham set up KFC in the UK, alongside his partner Ray Allen, before opening stores in the South West in 1988 under the Miss Millie’s brand.
Here Harry casts his mind back to those early KFC days:
All of our shops had a life size cut-out of the Colonel in his white suit and walking stick. Our late night customers sometimes “borrowed” these and they ended up in all sorts of places, the favourite being at a bus stop.
The bus drivers were not too amused when they stopped and there were no passengers to pick up, but again a story goes around, that on a foggy night an elderly lady thought it was a ghost and was so shocked she had to go to hospital.
Fog, Snow and Spoons
Fog and snow keep people off the streets and business gets very quiet. You can’t see us in the fog and on the first few days after a heavy snowfall people are inclined to stay indoors.
One snowy night, when Ann (now the Managing Director) and I were in the Church Road store, a very respectable looking man and woman with two children came into the shop. It was bitterly cold and as it would be a few minutes before the chicken was ready we offered them some hot soup. Ann went upstairs to borrow bowls and spoons from the flat.
The couple thanked us profusely and left after their soup – with the spoons.
Switcheroo! (from the book ‘It Wasn’t All Gravy’, published in 1981 in Louisville, Kentucky)
We were in one of [franchisee] Trevor Sumeray’s stores in London, England when the Colonel went over, got hold of the gravy and lambasted me and Trevor for selling this horrible stuff in the stores. I said: “Colonel, would you teach us again how to make the gravy?”
He made the gravy and we tasted it. It was pretty good gravy. We knew he was going on to the second store and I knew he was going to find the gravy no better there. So we shipped the gravy that the Colonel had made over to the next store. Then we took the Colonel there by a long route to make sure his gravy got there first.
He tasted the gravy he’d made in the first store – and didn’t like it at all!
And in an excerpt from the biography of Colonel Sanders ‘The Colonel’ by John Ed Pearce: The year 1976 has been a good one for him [Colonel Sanders]. In that year, the company announced British outlets had neared the hoped-for 300 mark. Until 1973 Britons Harry Latham and Ray Allen had operated the British company under an agreement with the Colonel, but in that year they were sold to Heublein, though Latham continued as managing director of the English company.
“The thing that really set us off over here was the Colonel,” said Latham. “When people saw him, the image offered the consistency of display backed up by the reassurance of the Colonel as a sort of father figure. Until then, most people through he was just a trademark, that he didn’t really exist.”
The Colonel was impressed with the stores he visited in London, though he was surprised to find many of them stayed open all night, and scowled when he found them serving chips (French fries) instead of his trusted mashed potatoes.
On the first day as Miss Millie’s we advertised that we would give away two pieces of chicken and chips to the first 100 customers on the following Sunday at each of our Bristol stores. One family appeared in every shop – we must have fed them for days.