The untold truth of Kenny Rogers

Despite their notoriously low profit margins, restaurants attract celebrities with cash to burn. Eatery co-owners like Jessica Biel and Ty Burrell generally put their money where the mouths might be, but most celebs don’t incorporate their famous names into their establishments. But then there’s Kenny Rogers Roasters, the chain of not-fried chicken joints marketed with the vaguely risque slogan “It’s the wood that makes it good.”

In 1991, John Y. Brown, the guy who made Kentucky Fried Chicken into a worldwide phenomenon, teamed up with Rogers on another fowl play, although this time the chicken was roasted rather than fried. The first Kenny Rogers Roasters opened in Coral Springs, Florida, in 1991, and within three years, the company had more than 100 outposts. While the chain grew to 425 locations, it was bankrupt by 1998 and was soon sold off. The last Roasters in the U.S., in Ontario, California, shut down in 2011, but the franchise still does hearty business in Asia, where the chief Roasters franchiser bought the rights to the company outright in 2008.

Rogers was never more than a financial partner and face/name of the company. He didn’t develop the marinade or anything like that. In fact, on a 1996 episode of Late Night with Conan O’Brien, the singer failed a blind chicken taste test, preferring NBC cafeteria chicken over his own company’s.

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