Relative to KFC and Pizza Hut, which count 41,352 restaurants between them, Taco Bell is a small stamp in YUM! Brands massive footprint. And there’s one area in particular where the whitespace flashes opportunity: international.
Of KFC’s 22,886 locations, 18,824 are outside the U.S. For Pizza Hut, it’s 10,993 stores out of 18,466. So, in both cases, the legacy chains actually have a smaller domestic presence than an international one.
Taco Bell? Only 494 of its 7,105 restaurants are not stateside.
This past year, Taco Bell’s franchisees committed to more than 1,100 international units under development agreements. It reentered London, a market it has just three locations in.
On Thursday, the company said it’s embarking on its next chapter of global growth, signing a colossal deal that will make India Taco Bell’s second-largest market in the world.
The master franchise agreement, signed with partner Burman Hospitality Private Limited, commits to developing 600 restaurants on the sub-continent over the next decade. Taco Bell said the move would add 20,000-plus jobs to India’s economy. It would also make BHPL one of the largest Taco Bell franchisees globally.
Taco Bell has only 35 restaurants in India currently and expects to nearly double the figure by the end of this year alone.
“We see so much opportunity in India, as it is still a largely untapped market for Taco Bell and offers huge potential for the brand,” said Ankush Tuli, managing director, Taco Bell APAC, in a statement. “We’ve partnered with Burman Hospitality for the past four years growing our presence in India, and the Master Franchise partnership marks a significant step in our journey. We are excited to bring together BHPL’s industry knowledge and our expertise with product innovation and research to continue bringing Taco Bell to consumers across India.”
This move is just the beginning, the brand said. In addition to India, Taco Bell plans to expand its presence to five restaurants in Thailand by year’s end. It first opened in Bangkok in January.
Then, in the coming 12 months, Taco Bell will debut in Sydney and Melbourne, Australia, for the first time. The chain said it’s had “tremendous success” in the country over the past two years and will “prioritize expansion in the region.” Taco Bell tested the waters in Brisbane to see if it could thrive in the big cities.
Taco Bell also plans to partner with Restaurant Brands Group to bring the brand to New Zealand for the first time within the next year. Other markets in sight: Indonesia and Portugal.
“The incredible response we’ve seen in India, Southeast Asia and Australia proves to us that these markets are ripe for continued growth,” said Liz Williams, president, Taco Bell International, in a statement. “The combination of consumer enthusiasm, a healthy business model and fantastic franchise partners makes now, more than ever, the right time for Taco Bell to expand around the world.”
Taco Bell’s same-store sales grew 4 percent in the first quarter of fiscal 2019. It enjoyed stellar comps of 5 percent in the U.S.
YUM! CEO Greg Creed said last quarter, “there’s a lot to be excited about” in regards to Taco Bell’s international growth. A launch party in Thailand generated nearly half a billion impressions. Value boxes, borrowed from the U.S., drove growth in the U.K., Indian, and Japan.