YUM! Brands tapped Tony Lowings to replace Roger Eaton as KFC Division chief executive officer, effective January 1. Eaton, who has been with the company for more than two decades, including leading the KFC brand globally since 2014, is retiring at year’s end.
Lowings is also a longtime YUM! employee. The 24-year YUM! vet currently serves as KFC Division president and chief operating officer.
“Tony Lowings is an outstanding leader with deep knowledge of our business and a strong track record of growing KFC’s presence and strengthening the brand’s competitive position with our franchise partners in markets around the world,” Greg Creed, YUM!’s chief executive officer, said in a statement. “As a proven and highly respected strategic brand builder, high impact operations leader and people grower, Tony is the perfect person to continue elevating KFC into a distinctive, relevant and easy global brand that people trust and champion. I’m extremely confident Tony and his management team will establish a seamless transition and continue to successfully execute KFC’s long-term global growth strategies in partnership with our franchisees.”
Lowings will assume global responsibility for driving KFC’s brand strategy and performance. The chain touts more than $24 billion in global system sales across more than 21,000 restaurants in 130-plus countries and territories.
In the second quarter, KFC posted a system sales lift of 6 percent versus the prior-year period. Same-store sales were up 2 percent, year-over-year. It netted five restaurants to bring the total to 21,838 globally. U.S. same-store sales were even year-to-date, while international rose 2 percent. Those numbers were 1 and 2 percent in Q2, respectively.
To illustrate the global power of KFC, here’s how international sales broke down in Q2 by percent of system sales:
- China: 27 percent
- United States: 18 percent
- Asia: 12 percent
- Australia: 7 percent
- Russia & Eastern Europe: 7 percent
- United Kingdom: 6 percent
- Latin America: 5 percent
- Western Europe: 5 percent
- Africa: 4 percent
- Middle East/Turkey/North Africa: 4 percent
- Canada: 2 percent
- Thailand: 2 percent
- India: 1 percent
In Lowings’ YUM! career, he’s held a variety of leadership positions across finance, operations, and general management segments in several international business units. Before becoming president and COO of KFC Division earlier in 2018, he was managing director of Asia-Pacific, a high-growth region that comprises 23 markets and more than 50 percent of all KFC units. “During this time, Lowings provided coaching and support to the KFC business units in India, Thailand, Australia, New Zealand and the Asia franchise business unit. He previously served as Managing Director of KFC SOPAC (Australia and New Zealand) where he was instrumental in growing the business and establishing KFC as one of the region’s most distinctive and unique brands,” YUM! said
His posts included COO of YUM! Restaurants International, managing director of Latin America and the Caribbean for KFC, Pizza Hut, and Taco Bell, and general manager of KFC and Pizza Hut in Australia and New Zealand.
“I’m thrilled and incredibly privileged to continue working with our committed KFC leaders and amazing franchise partners to further strengthen and accelerate the development of our powerhouse global brand,” Lowings added in a statement. “KFC is an iconic, well-loved brand with millions of fans and I couldn’t be more excited about its future.”
Eaton held a variety of jobs in his 20-plus years as well. He was COO of YUM! Brands, CEO of KFC U.S., chief operating and development officer of YUM! Brands, and senior vice president/managing director of YUM! Restaurants International South Pacific.
“I want to thank Roger Eaton, a dear colleague and friend to many, for his tremendous service, dedication and significant contributions to our business over the past two decades,” Creed said. “Roger’s imprint on our culture, people and the KFC brand is vast and his legacy is lasting. While we will miss Roger, he’s earned this next phase of life and we wish him well as he spends time with his wife Debbie and children Pierce and Georgie.”