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Recipe For Success: KFC
By Patti Jo Brooks

Kentucky Fried Chicken — oh yum! From its inception as a roadside restaurant in Kentucky during the Great Depression to its current empire of 25,000 outlets worldwide, KFC is one of the most popular franchises across the U.S. It’s no wonder then that the Jackson family in Woodburn enjoys an enterprising business as KFC franchisees.

Woodburn, one of the family’s eight locations throughout Oregon and Alaska, was franchised in 1993 and celebrates 30 years as a mainstay of the community. Over that time, the franchise and the family have seen many changes and much growth take place within the Woodburn community and surrounding areas.

Owners Fred and Lisa Jackson first partnered with Lisa’s brother to open franchises in Longview, Washington, and Oregon cities Seaside, Roseburg and Woodburn. Fred later split off on his own, keeping the Oregon locations. Following a nine-year stint in Kansas City, the Jacksons sold their KFC locations in K.C. and returned home to the Pacific Northwest. The thriving family enterprise now finds daughter Katie Roberts (mother of three) in charge of HR, marketing and finance. “I do a little bit of everything,” she notes. Her brother, Daniel (with four children of his own), leads operations.

Recently, Katie was asking Fred if he had any nostalgia or memories to share covering the 30 years they’ve held the Woodburn franchise. “Wow! It’s been 30 years!” Katie just realizes. “You know time flies when you’re having fun!”

The Jackson family has enjoyed watching the changes in Woodburn as it has grown. They’ve also shared in some of the hardships and trauma experienced by the community, from the bomb scare at the bank across the street to COVID and the wild fires. Through it all, Woodburn has stuck together remaining strong and supportive. “We just fully appreciate our customers and community, and the teams we’ve had,” Katie acknowledges.

Although KFC is a quick-service restaurant, all the chicken comes in unprepared. It is then hand-breaded and hand-cooked daily onsite. Chicken nuggets, one of the more recent additions to the menu, are becoming one of the most popular selections. Made from all-white unprocessed breast meat and hand-breaded in Original Recipe, “They’re fabulous,” Katie says. In spite of inflation or labor costs, Woodburn KFC works hard to bring real value to their customers and one primary focus is on accuracy in the orders. They realize they won’t be 100% accurate all the time, but when a mistake happens, “We’ll make it right,” Katie promises.

Fred and Lisa enjoy being part of the national KFC corporate system, which gives them access to so much more for their customers and staff than they could provide on their own. KFC corporate oversees all franchisee sources to ensure brand protection. Suppliers must meet specifications for quality, cleanliness and processors to be accepted as a KFC supplier. Furthermore, franchise managers are sent to regional training seminars in the spring where they team up with other Northwest area KFC managers. These regional associations, run by volunteers, help other franchisees by sharing information, knowledge and support. Fred has served as the president of this association for three different terms. The regional volunteer presidents are also included as members of the national KFC group, which gathers each winter. Katie, on the other hand, resides on the government affairs committee, bringing a positive voice to government while staying abreast of developments that would affect the family’s business.

Another benefit of being part of the KFC system is the multitude of scholarships and grants awarded to franchisee staff. Woodburn’s Emily Inzhirov was recently awarded a scholarship for dental hygiene studies and Lionel, another employee, received a four-year scholarship from the Foundation. “This year, through the Foundation, we are also able to offer online college for free,” Katie relates. “That is super exciting!”

Longevity of personnel, family supporting family and being able to work your way up in the company defines the Woodburn KFC culture. Some of the local staff members employed by Woodburn KFC have even spanned the generations. Daniel Jackson started working at the franchise when he was 16 — today, he’s general manager. Daniel’s wife also steps in to help out at times, and their daughter is the assistant manager. The store manager, David Vitela, makes sure both customers and crew members are well taken care of. “He’s just got so much heart for his community and for his team,” Katie remarks.

Reaching further into the community, Woodburn KFC is actively involved with the Chamber of Commerce. They’ve also donated to the Woodburn division of Relay for Life, a fundraiser sponsored by the American Cancer Society. They support local schools and are always willing to partner with them and have participated in the past with Woodburn Drag Strip.

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