Despite fourth quarter setbacks, particularly with supply chain and labor challenges, Yum Brands ended 2021 with 3,057 net new units globally, setting a record for the Pizza Hut and Taco Bell parent company, according to a Q4 earnings call on Wednesday for the quarter ended Dec. 31.
To focus on unit growth and brand awareness — particularly with international development — Yum Brands grew its team internally with the hiring of former Nike executive Sean Tresvant as global chief brand officer for Taco Bell in December and the appointment of former Nintendo executive Nike Chavez as KFC’s chief marketing officer in November.
“We believe this development threshold unlocks accelerated growth, marketing and brand awareness, and we’re confident in what the future holds for Taco Bell and Pizza Hut international, in particular,” Yum Brands CEO David Gibbs said Wednesday.
Besides unit development, Yum’s brands also saw upward sales growth trajectory particularly for Taco Bell and KFC. Taco Bell drove the company’s 5% overall same-store sales growth, with 8% brand same-store sales growth, while KFC saw 5% same-store sales growth and Pizza Hut declined to a more modest 3% same-store sales growth.
Yum Brands’ growth momentum was driven equally by investment in digital technology and menu development. For example, Pizza Hut reintroduced its LTO favorite, Detroit-style pizza, in the third quarter of last year, and KFC saw success with the reintroduction of its meatless Beyond chicken nuggets platform. Pizza Hut also launched Beyond Italian sausage and Beyond pepperoni pizzas last year, strengthening the popularity of the meat-free platform and Beyond Meat partnership throughout Yum’s portfolio.
Underscoring the success of new menu innovations is the company’s continued digital technology push, including the implementation of order and deliver platform, Dragontail Systems, which Yum Brands bought in September 2021 and is now being implemented in 2,100 markets across Pizza Hut and KFC restaurants to help streamline and optimize delivery routes for drivers.
“Our double-digit digital sales in the past two years is evidence that our investments are paying off,” Gibbs said. “We’re getting a strong return and are pleased with the digital results.”
Yum Brands’ revenue increased 8% to $1.9 billion from the same quarter the year prior. The company reported fourth quarter net income of $330 million, or $1.11 earnings per share, down slightly from $332 million, or $1.08 per share the same quarter the year prior.
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