Fast food fried chicken buckets have come a long way since their humble beginnings. The story dates back to 1957 when KFC introduced the first-ever chicken bucket. It all started when a KFC franchise owner purchased 500 paper buckets from a traveling salesman. However, it was Wendy’s founder Dave Thomas who played a significant role in transforming the bucket’s appearance. Thomas convinced Colonel Sanders to add red and white stripes, giving the bucket a more eye-catching appeal.
To complete the package, a giant revolving bucket-shaped sign was placed outside the restaurant. By 1969, the iconic bucket featured Colonel Sanders’ friendly face along with the famous “finger lickin’ good” tagline and the traditional red-and-white stripes.
Throughout the years, KFC‘s chicken buckets have become more than just a food container – they have become cultural icons. In the 1970s, the buckets maintained a similar design, but with more intricate illustrations of Colonel Sanders. In the 1980s, the Colonel’s portrayal shifted to a noble black-and-white image, even appearing on mini buckets for gravy and mashed potatoes. By the 1990s, the buckets took on a more modern look, featuring the KFC initials and red stripes resembling rays of sunlight.
KFC’s success with chicken buckets inspired other chicken chains to adopt the concept. Jollibee’s, for example, also offers red-and-white shaded buckets, but with a unique twist of sweet and saucy chicken combinations. Harold’s Chicken takes pride in its massive bucket portions, boasting up to 24 pieces of delectable chicken. On the contrary, Popeyes refrains from using chicken buckets in the U.S., likely due to KFC’s strong influence. However, they do embrace the concept in China and the Philippines.
Beyond their practicality, chicken buckets have become culturally significant. In Japan, it has become a tradition for many to share a KFC bucket during Christmas instead of cooking a meal. In 2018, when there was a shortage of chicken in U.K. restaurants, KFC buckets were being sold on eBay to satisfy the cravings of fried food enthusiasts. Vintage KFC buckets have even become collectibles, with people in the U.S. selling them on online platforms like eBay.
Recognizing the cultural impact of chicken buckets, KFC has incorporated them into their brand image. The outline of a bucket serves as their corporate logo, and they have embraced creative uses of their containers worldwide. From Australian cricket fans sporting bucket hats to light-up stories for children in South Africa, KFC showcases the versatility and appeal of their buckets. They have even gone as far as offering a t-shirt with a printed image of their famous bargain bucket, which fans can purchase for a remarkable $31.95.
In conclusion, fast food fried chicken buckets have evolved from simple food containers to cultural symbols. Their iconic designs, festive makeovers, and popularity as collectibles have made them more than just a means of carrying food. They represent a nostalgic connection to the past and a shared experience enjoyed by many. So, the next time you see a fried chicken bucket, take a moment to appreciate its oily evolution and the cultural significance it holds.