Yum Brands—parent to KFC, Taco Bell, The Habit Burger Grill and Pizza Hut—had a few positives to share during its Q3 earnings call with investors, held Wednesday, Nov. 1. For one, the company set a record on unit development, having opened 1,130 gross new units in its latest quarter, which ended Sept. 30. KFC led the way in unit growth, opening 664 new restaurants across 57 countries in the quarter.

Further, the brand saw new highs for its digital sales, which were up more than 20% year-over-year at more than $7 billion, and marked its fifth consecutive quarter of double-digit system sales growth globally.

A few more points of discussion were as follows:

• Kiosks. Currently, Yum Brands says it has kiosks in nearly 40% of KFC stores outside of China, all Taco Bell locations in the U.S. (except for licensed stores) and almost 70% of its Habit Burger Grill locations. By 2026, the company says it expects kiosks in the vast majority of its KFC stores outside of China. “Kiosks not only drive a higher check compared to our traditional front counter but also drive higher margins through operational efficiencies and generate new opportunities to leverage customer data and create personalized ordering experiences,” Chris Turner, chief financial officer, told analysts. “… We’re on track to have our recommended ordering technology, which we’re calling AIM (or automated inventory management) rolled out across our KFC U.S. system by year-end.”

“Kiosks not only drive a higher check compared to our traditional front counter but also drive higher margins through operational efficiencies and generate new opportunities to leverage customer data and create personalized ordering experiences.”—Chris Turner, CFO
• Tech advancements. Technologies being piloted at this time include a voice-enabled AI drive-thru platform that generates automated upsell recommendations as well as increases speed, productivity, and efficiencies, says Yum Brands. The platform is currently being tested at a couple of restaurants in California. Further, Yum Brands says it has developed a proprietary automated drinks fulfillment system that frees up team members’ time, plus increases drive-thru speed and accuracy.

• A changing pizza category. A few weeks before reporting earnings, Yum Brands’ Pizza Hut announced that thousands of its locations would stay open until midnight or later, with some staying open as late as 2 a.m. Delivery and carryout will be offered during those late-night hours, and a release notes the change is in response to an “undeniable trend toward late-night dining among the younger generation.” CEO David Gibbs noted on the call that Pizza Hut benefits from having the ability to outsource deliveries. “When it may have been a little bit harder for us to staff with drivers, being able to hand off those deliveries to our aggregator partners allowed us to extend our hours,” he explained. Gibbs also says he thinks lower price points will play a bigger role in the pizza category going forward. To that end, he says melts—a folded, two-piece pizza-like item—are likely to be a big part of Pizza Hut’s growth. Source: FER

Taco Bell launches a subscription program for its Nacho Fries
Taco Bell has had success with its Taco Lover’s Pass, first introduced in 2022, and is now trying to replicate that success with a similar program for its popular Nacho Fries.
Alicia Kelso | Nov 14, 2023

Taco Bell’s Taco Lover’s Pass, first introduced in early 2022, has been such a success for the brand, it is now introducing a similar program for its Nacho Fries. The new Nacho Fries Lover’s Pass is available beginning today for $10 for Rewards members. With the subscription program, members have access to a regular Nacho Fries order every day for 30 consecutive days, or through Dec. 4.

“We’re committed to pushing the boundaries of convenience and innovation for our biggest fans, our loyalty members. The Nacho Fries Lover’s Pass is just one example of how we’re leveraging digital technology to enhance their experience,” Dane Mathews, Taco Bell’s chief digital officer, said in a statement. “Our dedication to our fans and an innovative customer experience continues to be a driving force behind our efforts to leverage digital innovation in transformational ways.”

Related: Taco Bell is adding vegan sauce to its Nacho Fries

Taco Bell introduced its Taco Lover’s Pass program nationally after a test in Arizona found it yielded new loyalty members. During the ensuing earnings call, David Gibbs, CEO of parent company Yum Brands, said, “At Taco Bell U.S., we continue to experiment with new and innovative ways to engage with our consumers through LTO programs such as the Taco Lover’s Pass which helped fuel growth in loyalty memberships during the quarter and which drove customer frequency.”

Additionally, Taco Bell is introducing Grilled Cheese Nacho Fries on Nov. 16 for a limited time while supplies last. The new iteration is available for $4.99 and features fried potatoes topped with a grilled blend of mozzarella, Monterey pepper jack, and cheddar cheeses garnished with marinated grilled steak, Taco Bell’s signature nacho cheese and chipotle sauces. Customers can also order a spicy version of the fries with added jalapeños.

Nacho Fries quickly became Taco Bell’s most successful product launch ever when they were first introduced in 2018. The company has since rolled out various iterations of the product, from Loaded Truff Nacho Fries to Rattlesnake Fries and Reaper Ranch Fries. In September, the company teased at more variations in the future, stating, “Be on the lookout for more exciting Nacho Fries news and tantalizing options, sure to keep fans coming back for more.”

Contact Alicia Kelso at Nation’s Restaurant NewsY

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