The Solution that Helped Build a Brand
Winston Industries’ long history with KFC began in the 1960s. Our founder Winston Shelton left General Electric to form a new prototyping business. Meanwhile, he was recruited to improve upon a pressure fryer – a project that would set the course for Kentucky Fried Chicken to become a dominant global chain.
Under Pressure for a New Solution
In the beginning, small hand-held pressure cookers cooked chicken in all KFC franchise stores. The Colonel knew pressure frying chicken was much faster than an iron skillet. But this meant cooks had to carry the hot pots to a dumping station and drain them. A screen caught the chicken and filtered the oil for reuse. Consequently, since the temperature of the cooking oil was above 400°F, this was really hazardous. Likewise, consistency was also an issue. Each cook had to track the time of every batch they cooked by watching a wall clock. Consequently, time miscalculations resulted in under- or overcooked chicken. Certainly a safer and more efficient solution was needed if KFC was to really grow.
Winston Shelton’s Filtration Idea
The first step in replacing the hazardous, inconsistent multi-pot cooking method was a high volume fryer invented by filtering equipment manufacturer Carl Mies. Colonel Sanders asked Winston Shelton to improve the cooking timer for the new fryers. While examining the process, Shelton saw much more opportunity for improvement. Subsequently, he developed a new filtration method for pressure fryers that increased cooking productivity and efficiency.
The Collectramatic® Changed Everything
The original fryer design did not filter the cooking oil. This meant that bits of breading (cracklings) that fell from the chicken during cooking remained in the oil and burned. As a result, this reduced the cooking oil’s usable life. Shelton invented a way to automatically filter the oil while continuously frying. Using gravity and convective circulation, Shelton’s design allowed the cracklings that fell off to collect in a cooler deep well at the bottom of the fryer. Importantly, this innovation meant cooks no longer needed to frequently shut off the fryers and drain them to filter the oil.
The new fryer was dubbed the Collectramatic® Pressure Fryer. It could cook 20 batches of chicken between filterings.
Kudos from the Colonel and Soaring Productivity
The Colonel had high praise for Shelton’s design. Inspecting the round collector cylinder at the bottom of the fryer, the Colonel discovered it was full of cracklings. Since these bits constituted a key ingredient in his chicken gravy recipe, the Colonel was delighted.
As word of the new fryer spread throughout the franchise system, orders for the Collectramatic poured in. Using the old single pot method, KFC stores generateed $200,000 per year in average sales. With Shelton’s new fryer, average sales per store immediately grew to an amazing $900,000. In a 2012 interview with Louisville magazine, Fred Jefferies, then KFC purchasing and franchise vice president, said the 450% sales growth could never have been accomplished without “Win’s fryer.” Jefferies said, “He helped set the stage for that with true engineering thinking.”
Today, we continue to invent and manufacture the most precise and profitable foodservice equipment, serving over 120 countries. Winston Manufacturing carries on the “true engineering thinking” of its namesake. We believe in great ideas and are dedicated to making them a reality. We look forward to building more solutions as we bring more ideas to life.