Nothing went afoul when the recipe was returned from an undisclosed location to KFC's headquarters late Monday in a lockbox handcuffed to the wrist of a security consultant.
KFC President Roger Eaton was visibly relieved when the door to a new electronic safe was shut with the single sheet of yellowing paper stashed inside. "Mission accomplished," he said.
"It was very nerve wracking," Eaton said later of the recipe's hiatus from a vault where it has been kept for decades. "I don't want to be the only president who's lost the recipe."
The recipe is such a tightly held secret that not even Eaton knows its full contents. Only two company executives at any time have access to the recipe. KFC won't release their names or titles, and it uses multiple suppliers who produce and blend the ingredients but know only a part of the entire contents.
"We've very comfortable with the security," Eaton said. "I don't think anyone can break into it."
Just how valuable is the recipe?
Thomas P. Hustad, professor of marketing at Indiana University's Kelley School of Business, said the recipe "goes to the core of the identity of the brand." The recipe, along with the man who created it, conjure images for the chain that help set it apart in the minds of customers, he said.
"I would say that the heritage value is just as high for this secret recipe as the stories around the Coke formula," Hustad said by phone Tuesday. "I guess I'd put the two of those at the top of the pyramid."
Dietl said the security measures he installed replaced an "antiquated" system. For years, the recipe was kept in a filing cabinet equipped with two combination locks in the vault.
"The colonel could have used a pry bar to open that thing up," Dietl said.
I'm glad to know the recipe is safe. It would be terrible if terrorists got a hold of the recipe . . . . .
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