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Yum opens 1st Taco Bell in India

LOUISVILLE Ky. In an effort to expand Taco Bell’s international reach, parent Yum! Brand Inc. debuted the quick-service chain's first unit in Bangalore, India, last week.

The store opening is part of Yum’s plan to position the quick-serve Mexican chain as its third international powerhouse brand alongside its KFC and Pizza Hut divisions. The company, which last year opened 1,467 restaurants outside of the United States, including 509 in China and 898 in other foreign markets, has vowed to more than quadruple its multibrand holdings in India by 2015. It currently operates 158 Pizza Hut and 72 KFC restaurants there.

“We’re delighted to be offering Taco Bell to consumers in India, a key growth market in our global portfolio,” said Graham Allan, president of Yum Restaurants International. “The Mexican-style food is perfect for the Indian taste palate and we will be offering a variety of vegetarian meals as well so that everyone can enjoy it.”

Half of the menu at the Bangalore Taco Bell consists of vegetarian products crafted specially for Indian consumers, chain officials said. Items include crunchy potato tacos and burritos made with potatoes and paneer, a fresh, unripened cheese used to add protein to a wide range of Indian foods. The remainder of the menu is composed of spicier versions of Taco Bell’s signature foods, such as nachos, quesadillas and Crunchwraps.

The items will be value priced, starting at 35 cents, making them competitive with some Indian snack or fast-food chains and independents.

Niren Chaudhary, managing director of Yum Restaurants International India, said the company is “confident that Taco Bell will redefine the eating-out market in India.”

The Bangalore Taco Bell’s debut stands in contrast with the opening earlier this month of the 300th Domino’s Pizza location in India. That opening made the Ann Arbor, Mich.-based brand the leading U.S. chain concept in India in terms of number of locations. By comparison, McDonald’s, which like Domino’s has operated in India since 1996, has approximately 180 restaurants in that country, spokeswoman Becca Hary said, and, according to Subway spokesman Les Winograd, that chain has opened 155 restaurants in India since December 2001.

In recent years, Yum has bolstered lackluster results among its approximately 19,700 domestic restaurants with strong showings in China and other international markets, where its brands, combined, field about 17,400 locations.

In 2009, Yum Restaurants International and the company's China division booked a combined operating profit of about $1.1 billion, versus the U.S. division’s operating profit of $647 million. In year-over-year percentage growth terms, before foreign currency translations, operating profit grew 23 percent at the China division, by 5 percent at Yum Restaurants International and by 1 percent in the U.S.

In terms of year-over-year growth in number of conventional restaurants, in 2009 Yum’s China division expanded by 13.2 percent and Yum Restaurants International saw its unit base increase by 3.6 percent, while the base of restaurants in the United States contracted by about 1 percent.

As of the end of 2009, there were approximately 5,604 Taco Bell restaurants in the United States and 251 in Yum Restaurants International markets, Yum reported. In comparison, it said, KFC had about 5,162 U.S. restaurants and 11,102 restaurants in China and Yum Restaurants International markets, while Pizza Hut had approximately 7,566 U.S. restaurants and 5,715 stores in the China and YRI markets.

Contact Alan Liddle at [email protected].

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