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Yum Brands is going all in with its tech stack – will it work?

 

A tech company that happens to sell (insert pizza, wings, salads here). We’ve heard this song before as executives – both past and present – from Domino’s, Wingstop and Sweetgreen have embraced their digital prowess at times more often than their actual menu offerings. And nothing against their menus, of course. It’s just that, traditionally, they’ve been a bit ahead of the curve in terms of tech stacks and such.

Yum Brands seems to have caught up, if Wednesday’s earnings call is any indication. The call included plenty of talk about digital sales and loyalty programs (next up, a KFC U.S. rollout) and kiosks (now in all Taco Bell U.S. locations) and so forth. There were also a few updates about the work Yum is doing to create operational efficiencies and leverage customer data to create more personalized experiences, which is quickly becoming a consumer mandate.

The pace at which this work is being tested and scaled is staggering, and to do both from a proprietary position is very likely a competitive advantage for the company. That proprietary journey became a bit more focused in 2019, when Yum launched its innovation function that eventually became the “Digital Innovation Lab.” According to CFO Chris Turner, Yum’s digital sales that year were about $12 billion. The company is now close to $30 billion. The company exceeded 40% in digital sales last year and is on a mission to get to 100% eventually

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