David Gibbs took over as Yum Brands CEO in 2020 after the retirement of Greg Creed. While the title was new, Gibbs, previously president and chief operating officer, had been training for this moment for a long time. He hit the ground running when he announced the company’s acquisition of Southern California-based fast-casual brand Habit Burger Grill.
His first major move as CEO was a significant milestone for Yum Brands, as it brought a fourth brand into the family. He said it would be an attractive investment for current franchisees looking to diversify their portfolios.
“We added another great restaurant brand with a huge runway for growth,” Gibbs told Nation’s Restaurant News.
The company also launched in 2020 its Unlocking Opportunity Initiative, which is committing $100 million over five years to address inequality and improve the lives of the people who work at all Yum restaurants.
“2020 reminded us that ongoing dialogue about racism and inequality is absolutely necessary and that, as the world’s largest restaurant company, we can and must do more to unlock opportunities and make real and lasting change that will benefit our businesses and communities,” Gibbs said.
Ultimately, the biggest challenge of the year became a defining moment for Gibbs and his team.
He said he’s proud of the company’s “agile response” to the many challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic. Each brand, The Habit, Taco Bell, KFC and Pizza Hut, took “extraordinary measures” to protect the health and safety of employees, customers, franchisees and restaurant team members around the world. In turn, Yum Brands set up a Global Franchise Health and COVID-19 Support Team to help franchisees navigate the crisis.
“Our portfolio of brands has proven resilient,” he said. “2020 has been a difficult year that put our business through the ultimate stress test, and we passed with flying colors. We pivoted our business model when we were faced with unprecedented challenges related to COVID-19 and our entire system banded together with unbelievable adaptability, collaboration and speed.”