Gus’s World Famous Chicken started out in 1957 when Napoleon Vanderbilt, and his wife Maggie, began playing with a fried chicken recipe which would soon become famous. In Mason, Tennessee, word of this super crunchy, spicy chicken quickly spread. Not able to afford a place of their own, the Vanderbilt’s were selling their chicken out the back door of a tavern.
Friends and customers encouraged the pair to open their own restaurant, but the Vanderbilt’s were of modest means. Finally, friends bought or donated the materials to build and Mr. Vanderbilt, along with more friends, worked to construct their own brick and mortar restaurant.
Mr. Vanderbilt’s only son, Vernon “Gus” Bonner took over the restaurant before his father’s death. Gus loved the business and he found a devoted follower with the current CEO Wendy McCrory. McCrory began franchising operations and has expanded the company from 2 locations to 22 locations in less than 5 years. Current plans are to expand at a rate of 5 to 10 franchises each year. McCrory has also stated that she has received requests about franchising in China and South America, though those plans have yet to be finalized.
Gus’s famous recipe is known to only a handful of persons. The frying batter is made behind locked doors in Mason, Tennessee, and is given to franchises in frozen batches. In addition to fried chicken, the company offers fried sweet potatoes, potato salad, fried green tomatoes, coleslaw and pecan pie.