Taco Bell represented 12 percent of Yum!’s net new openings with 364, and ended 2021 with significant domestic and international milestones. In the U.S., Taco Bell reached 7,000, and outside of the borders, Spain became the first international market to surpass 100 units.
The fast-food giant completed 2021 with 7,791 restaurants, including 7,002 domestically and 789 internationally.
Same-store sales increased 9 percent in Q4 and 10 percent in 2021 on a two-year stack. Sales growth in Q4 was fueled by a host of menu innovation, including the Cantina Crispy Melt Taco, Grilled Cheese Burrito, a new lineup of toasted breakfast burritos, and a new Cravings Value Menu.
“Taco Bell U.S. is back to developing at a really fast pace, like in the early days of Taco Bell, we see that accelerate,” Gibbs said. “The Taco Bell International is probably one of the most exciting stories we have right now. We’ve talked about it a lot and you’re seeing over 160 net new units built on a base of 600 entering the year, that’s a 26 percent growth. That’s pretty impressive, and we see that accelerating.”
Out of all the brands, Pizza Hut experienced the biggest turnaround. In 2020, the chain closed a net of 1,063 across the globe as the brand continued its years-long shift toward a delivery/takeout footprint. In 2021, the pizza concept opened a net of 742 stores, or 24 percent of the total net unit growth.
Pizza Hut’s international markets debuted a net of 755 units, while the U.S. declined by a net of 13 stores. Although the company dropped in domestic unit count, it’s still much better than 2020, when U.S. markets closed a net of 745 restaurants.
U.S. comps grew 10 percent on a two-year basis in the fourth quarter, and 9 percent for 2021. Internationally, same-store sales declined 3 percent in Q4 and dropped 5 percent in 2021. Pizza Hut ended 2021 with 18,381 stores, including 11,833 internationally and 6,548 in the U.S.
“Pizza Hut International delivered a record year in development with all international business units reporting net positive growth, led by China and India,” Turner said. “ … Pizza Hut U.S. continues to make progress on its development journey and is poised for future growth, thanks to improved unit economics and a healthy franchise base.”
Habit Burger, although much smaller than its sister concepts, experienced positive growth as well, with net openings of 23 stores, or 11 percent unit growth. The burger brand’s comps lifted 5 percent in Q4 on a two-year basis, and increased 2 percent in 2021.
The entire company ended 2021 with 53,424 units worldwide.
Gibbs said Yum! Isn’t concerned about pulling back development in any country. As an example, he pointed toward India—a country that opened 335 units last year, and one that should see continued acceleration.
“Even in the U.S., we’re starting to see the momentum develop in our Pizza Hut and KFC businesses where we historically haven’t been contributing net new unit growth,” Gibbs said. “We’re optimistic about that.”
Full-year core operating profit increased 18 percent, driven by same-store sales growth and the impact of unit development throughout the year. Worldwide system-sales grew 13 percent in 2021, with KFC at 16 percent, Taco Bell at 13 percent, and Pizza Hut at 6 percent.
In 2022, Yum! expects 2–3 percent same-store sales growth and 4–5 percent unit expansion, in accordance with its long-term algorithm.