An attempt to sell a restaurant and historic mansion formerly owned by Colonel Sanders and his wife has struggled to fly — in part because the deal upsets the Kentucky owner’s feathers, The Post has learned.
Claudia Sanders’ Dinner House — a 63-year-old restaurant in Shelbyville, Kentucky that attracts locals and tourists alike with its fried chicken, coleslaw, and homemade pancakes — went on sale in June. Some interested buyers say they want to franchise it and expand its presence outside of town for the first time.
But the prospect of a competing fried chicken chain using the Sanders name has caught the attention of mom YUM! Trademarks, whose legal team immediately filed a file with the US Patent and Trademark Office days after the properties were put up for sale.
The submission seeks to strengthen protections for KFC’s trademarks, including “Col. Sanders’ Original Recipe,” “Col. Harland Sanders” and “It’s Finger Lickin’ Good.”
“It’s a very unique situation,” said Jonathan Klink of Six Degrees Real Estate, which was contracted to sell the properties. “We are selling Claudia and she doesn’t have much identification with her husband’s name, but the buyer can’t describe her without mentioning her husband and Kentucky.”
Colonel Harland Sanders married Claudia in 1949 and opened the Claudia Sanders Dinner House to his wife in 1959 on a 3-acre property that also includes their 5,000-square-foot private residence known as Blackwood Hall. Sanders lived his last years in Blackwood Hole before his death in 1980 at the age of 94. Claudia died in 1994 when she was 90 years old.
The property has been in the hands of Sanders family friends Tommy and Sherry Settle since the 1970s. Sherry, 78, was a hostess at the restaurant when she and Tommy, now 80, bought the property from Sanders. Tommy ran a factory that supplied pig trees to the restaurant. The couple runs the restaurant and currently lives in Blackwood Hall but wants to retire.
Tasty! He didn’t answer several calls and emails for comment, but KFC is notoriously secretive about its fried chicken recipe. 11 Sanders Original Spices & Herbs. Klink says there are “lots of similarities” between restaurant menus but Dinner House “has nothing to do with the KFC recipe.”
The Settles are on tour with YUM! In 2001 Tommy found a leather-bound history notebook from 1964 in the basement of Blackwood Hall owned by Colonel Sanders and containing a list of 11 herbs and spices. Settle wanted to certify the recipe so he could sell it, according to reports at the time, but YUM sued him to keep it private until the company could vet it. The lawsuit was dropped when YUM! He claimed that the recipe was not close to the original.
Clink said YUM!, the $6.5 billion conglomerate headquartered in Louisville, Kentucky that owns Pizza Hut and Taco Bell, has not expressed an interest in acquiring the restaurant’s brand or property.
The Settles are seeking $9 million for their intellectual property plus the two buildings, the three-acre lot and some memorabilia including the first flag and bucket from KFC and a birthday letter to Sanders from President Richard Nixon. a 2013 auction Of the Colonel’s memorabilia that included one of his white suits amounted to $21,510 and a 1973 Kentucky driver’s license amounting to $1912.
Clink said Six Degrees is now considering dismantling the estate, selling each piece separately to attract more buyers.
So far, interested buyers include local and large restaurant groups, chain entrepreneurs with global businesses and even some local bourbon brands, according to the real estate firm.
Clink said one potential buyer talked about turning the colonel’s home into a luxury Airbnb rental location, while two Kentucky bourbon brands are weighing expansions into comfort food. Others, Clink said, are exploring licensing its popular dishes, especially its famous yeast roll, for sale in supermarkets.
But none of the bidders go ahead before speaking to YUM! About what they can do with the brand without soliciting litigation.
“If you want to use the Claudia Sanders brand, you have to have a team of intellectual property attorneys in place,” Klink tells potential buyers.
Claudia Sanders Diner House has been a mainstay in Shelbyville, Kentucky since 1959, even serving as the first KFC headquarters for some time. His menu includes boxes of chicken wings, thighs, tenderloins, yeast rolls, creamy spinach, kale salad, and homemade pancakes.
It is one of the few establishments in the area that has a liquor license. Locals celebrate holidays, weddings and reunions in the large two-storey pavilion with spacious patios.
Even international tourists, especially from Japan – where Kentucky Fried Chicken is a staple at Christmas dinner – have posted photos of themselves wandering the vast parking lot between the dinner house and Blackwood Hall.
The restaurant coexisted peacefully with the fast food empire largely because Sanders and Settles didn’t aggressively promote the brand or promote it on social media.
That may change — but it wouldn’t be easy to slap Sanders’ name on other restaurants that sell chicken, said Brad De Rose, a trademark attorney at Pryor Cashman who was not involved in the case.
“Who takes the name Claudia Sanders may be in for an uphill and costly battle,” Rose said.
“Infuriatingly humble alcohol fanatic. Unapologetic beer practitioner. Analyst.”