75: KFC’s Original Recipe

Colonel Harland Sanders may have opened his original restaurant, Sanders Court & Café, in 1930, and the Kentucky Fried Chicken franchise may have formally launched in 1952. But the core of the company—the (literally) secret recipe that has driven KFC’s success—is the Colonel’s Original Recipe, which made its debut 75 years ago, 10 years after Sanders opened his first restaurant.

KFC celebrated the 75th anniversary by reincarnating none other than the Colonel himself. Earlier this year, a series of offbeat advertisements starring former “Saturday Night Live” comedian Darrell Hammond playing Colonel Sanders hit the airwaves. The ads received mixed reviews, but the negative opinions didn’t phase Yum! Brands CEO Greg Creed, who said during a conference earlier in the year, “[People are] actually talking about KFC, and you can market to love and hate; you cannot market to indifference.”

The company made a surprise move in August, when Hammond was switched out for fellow “SNL” alum Norm Macdonald as the Colonel, a move KFC said was planned all along.

They Say It’s Your Birthday

All the brands celebrating milestones in 2015.


Dairy Queen



Dunkin’ Donuts


Domino’s Pizza



Gold Star Chili

El Pollo Loco


Boston Market

CiCi’s Pizza



Jamba Juice

Pita Pit


Noodles & Company

California Tortilla

Juice It Up!

Moe’s Southwest Grill

Fresh to Order


Hannah’s Bretzel


Elevation Burger

Dog Haus

Burger 21

Roam Burger

75: Dairy Queen

The high royalty of the dessert category celebrated its diamond anniversary in March. The company, which has more than 6,000 locations in 20-plus countries, isn’t showing its age at a time when many established brands might struggle with an identity crisis. Far from it; Dairy Queen has used its big year to not only celebrate its heritage, but also to plant the seeds of success for the future.

The so-called “Fanniversary” began in January with a Birthday Cake Oreo Blizzard. Then, on March 16, all Dairy Queen locations in the U.S. and Canada offered free 5-ounce servings of vanilla soft-serve cones while accepting donations to the Children’s Miracle Network (Dairy Queen’s charity of choice). And in June, the brand launched its first major motion picture collaboration when it promoted “Jurassic World” with six specially designed Blizzard cups, in-store signage, point-of-sale materials, a film-inspired Blizzard flavor, and TV and digital advertising.

The dessert icon’s biggest move, though, might have been the launch of its DQ Bakes! platform, which introduced nine new items in three categories: Hot Desserts à la Mode, Artisan-style Sandwiches, and Snack Melts. Brand executives said it was the biggest menu addition in the company’s history.

“Millennials are looking for things with higher-quality ingredients that are made fresh and made to order,” Bill Barrier, executive vice president of global product development at American Dairy Queen Corp., told QSR in August. “We want to make sure that Millennials continue to come to us and eventually bring their kids.”

70: Baskin-Robbins

Limitless options and combinations may be the customer trend du jour at dessert shops these days, but for Baskin-Robbins, the magic number has always been 31.

The brand that has championed its 31 flavors heritage has celebrated year No. 70 throughout 2015 with its “Celebrate 31” promotion, which offers $1.31 scoops at participating shops on the 31st of each corresponding month (January, March, May, July, August, October, and December).

65: Whataburger

As far as regional restaurant sensations go, Whataburger is up there with the most feverishly passionate fans—and among the most successful. The burger brand that opened its first store in Corpus Christi, Texas, in 1950 has grown to nearly 800 restaurants and almost $2 billion in system-wid sales, all while concentrating its growth to its home state of Texas and across the Southeast and Plains regions.

Whataburger honored its 65th anniversary on August 8, the date on which founder Harmon Dobson opened the first store. The company offered a free “Whatasize” on all “Whatameals,” upgrading guests who ordered a regular-sized meal to a large fries and beverage.

65: Dunkin’ Donuts

The cofee-and-doughnuts juggernaut is only just now getting started on its global domination; the brand recently signed a 1,400-unit deal in China and has big hopes for the American West, where it remains under-penetrated.

But Dunkin’ Donuts isn’t neglecting its heritage—or the people who helped get the brand to this point. On June 11, the company celebrated its 65th anniversary by giving its 3 million–plus DD Perks loyalty members an extra 65 points for the purchase of a beverage and doughnut.

50: Subway

For most brands, the Golden Anniversary is a time to celebrate, a time to champion the brand’s big successes and plans for the future. And Subway has indeed celebrated its 50th anniversary this year; “Customer Appreciation Day” promotions around the world offered guests a a buy-one-get-one deal, while the company also earned a Guinness World Record in August for “Most people making sandwiches simultaneously,” a feat it accomplished in Las Vegas during the brand’s annual convention.

But a cloud has also hung over Subway, as sales performance has been down (the company’s system-wide sales dropped some $800 million between 2013 and 2014) and a scandal involving former spokesman Jared Fogle has plagued the company in recent months.


50: Gold Star Chili

Not too many people are familiar with Cincinnati-style chili. But say those words in Cincinnati, Ohio, and mouths are likely to drool, as the dish is nearly a religion in the city and its suburbs, and to eat chili without a pile of cheese on top—and on anything but a coney or spaghetti—is akin to sacrilege.

At the forefront of the Cincinnati chili-slinging is Gold Star Chili, which honored its Golden Anniversary this year on, appropriately enough, National Chili Day (February 26) by offering $3 3-Ways (spaghetti topped with chili and Cheddar cheese) all day long. The company also spent the year preparing for a brand refresh, which will include next-generation interior and exterior design, an evolved logo, and a refreshed menu.

25: Zaxby’s

What started as a spot for great chicken wings and tenders opened by childhod friends in a college town has since grown into more than $1 billion in sales and 700 restaurants. Zaxby’s turned 25 this year, and celebrated the anniversary with an enhanced commitment to its farmhouse store prototype, which features redesigned exteriors, dining rooms, and kitchens. That included the original Statesboro, Georgia, location, which switched over to the farmhouse design earlier this year.

25: Jamba Juice

Everybody likes free stuff. So bonus points to Jamba Juice, the Emeryville, California–based smoothie brand founded in 1990, which opted to celebrate its 25th anniversary with free smoothies earlier this year. Customers were offered small Tropical Greens, Caribbean Passion, and Strawberries Wild smoothies and juices between 9 and 11 a.m. on April 23.

20: Pita Pit

Anniversaries are as much a time to plan for the future as they are to celebrate the past. That’s why Pita Pit welcomed its 20th anniversary in August with a conference that brought together franchisees, executives, suppliers, and employees in an event that was used to excite the team and communicate a vision for the next 20 years. Executives hope to grow the 500-unit brand to 1,000 global locations by the end of 2020.

20: California Tortilla

The Maryland-based fast-casual Mexican join California Tortilla rang in its 20th year with a self-proclaimed “Annibirthery” celebration from August 3 through August 7. The celebration included promotions such as double points day, a scratch-and-win card with prizes like free dessert and free burritos, throwback pricing, and free cupcakes.

20: Juice It Up!

Last year was kind of a big year for California-based Juice It Up; the brand enjoyed a 16 percent sales bump over the previous year, launched a new menu, updated menuboards, and inked deals for new locations across the country. But 2015 could be even bigger. The company turns 20 this year, and celebrated with a new smoothie (the California Cooler, with fresh cucumber, pineapple juice, lemonade, lime sherbet, and pineapple) and free smoothies dished out to guests on August 4.

15: Moe’s Southwest Grill

Moe’s really wanted to throw it back for its 15th anniversary celebration. That’s why it encouraged guests to show up to its annual Cinco de Moe’s (May 5) celebration with throwback styles featuring all the greatest trends of the year 2000.

10: Freshii

When Freshii founder Matthew Corrin first opened the doors to his restaurant in 2005, he was hoping to create a place for health-minded people like him to access fresh and nutritious foods. What he didn’t realize was that the demand wasn’t confined to New York City, where he lived at the time; the demand was only just starting to bubble all across the country. Click here to learn more about the fast casual and how it has helped breathe life into the healthy eating movement.

10: Hannah’s Bretzel

Sometimes an anniversary celebration is self congratulatory. And sometimes it’s promoting a greater good.

Chicago-based fast casual Hannah’s Bretzel took the latter route this year as it celebrated its 10th anniversary. Company founder Florian Pfahler chose to honor the year by launching Hannah’s First Annual Emerging Chefs Challenge, through which area culinary students were invited to create a new sandwich for the brand. Finalists faced off in a sandwich-making competition judged by local chefs, and the winner, Joyce Mac, won a $1,000 culinary scholarship. Mac’s winning sandwich, the “Keen Wow Delite,” joined the menu in the summer. Hannah’s Bretzel will donate 10 percent of sales of the winning sandwich to charity.

10: Pinkberry

There’s cheap, and then there’s really cheap. On Pinkberry’s 10th anniversary, the frozen yogurt was really cheap. The Los Angeles–based dessert shop honored its leap into double digits by offering fro-yo for 10 cents on January 30, throwing in a special birthday swirl of raspberry white chocolate and sea salt chocolate for good measure.

Back of House, Burgers, Customer Experience, Growth, Marketing & Promotions, Sandwiches, Special Reports, Dairy Queen, Kentucky Fried Chicken