Recap: Taco Bell CEO Predicts Drive-Thru Growth Post-Pandemic
In December, The Wall Street Journal sat down with Yum Brands’ CEO David Gibbs. The man behind top quick-service brands like KFC, Taco Bell, and Pizza Hut shared his insights on post-pandemic growth in the restaurant industry, as well as lessons he learned along the way.
The global COVID-19 crisis caused an almost immediate halt for quick-service restaurants like KFC, Taco Bell, and Pizza Hut when it hit the US in early 2020. As a $17 billion company with franchises in more than 150 countries, Yum Brands was hit exponentially hard, with thousands of restaurants closing for much of the spring. While many of these companies have rebounded since the early pandemic days and mandatory shutdowns, the entire industry has changed, most likely permanently. The Wall Street Journal talked with CEO David Gibbs to find out how he was able to contend with those closed restaurants and what the future looks like for his company.
Early Pandemic Mistakes
Gibbs broke down mistakes that he and Yum Brands made early on in the pandemic, including slow movement for franchises like Pizza Hut. “For years,” he said, “we’ve talked about…[being] more of a delivery, carryout business and less reliant on dine-in.” However, he mentioned that quick pivoting mid-pandemic has helped despite hundreds of Pizza Hut closures.
Curbside Carryout is the Future
Drive-thru operations have helped many quick-service chains stay afloat during the pandemic. Gibbs mentioned working on designs for restaurants to have not one, but multiple drive-thrus for more efficiency. Gibbs says, “No matter how great you are at drive-thru, you can still fit only X amount of cars in a single line.” Testing in Australia has already begun for innovative units with up to five drive-thru lanes.
A New Normal in Fast Food
Another way Gibbs and Yum Brands have combated the pandemic is through simplified menus. While there’s no plan currently to bring back Mexican Pizza from Taco Bell, Gibbs says that “We can always bring it back at some point if the demand is there.” On top of menu changes, Gibbs is looking at new ways of providing a safe, hygienic environment for patrons of his quick-service restaurants.
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