After a slow start early into the pandemic, Yum! Brands—parent of Taco Bell, KFC, and Pizza Hut—picked up steam in May, reaching record sales in some cases.
Domestic KFC units saw same-store sales growth in the mid-teens from the end of April through May, up from a decline in the low 20s at the end of March. In early May, the chicken brand experienced the highest average sales per store in a week in company history. Quarter-to-date through May, comps are up in the mid-single digits.
Similarly, in early May Pizza Hut saw its highest delivery and carryout average sales week in the past eight years. Same-store sales grew in the low teens from the end of April through May, a lift from mid-teen decreases at the end of March. Quarter-to-date through the end of May, comps are up in the low-single digits. At off-premises units specifically, same-store sales are up roughly 15 percent quarter-to-date.
Taco Bell registered slightly positive growth from the end of April through May, a boost from the roughly 30 percent plummet it saw at the end of March. In the second quarter through May, same-store sales are declining in the high-single digits.
As consumers shifted to takeout and delivery, each brand has benefited from a strengthened dinner daypart. Taco Bell in particular has seen year-over-year growth in average check at dinner time, but that has coincided with significant traffic declines during the breakfast and late-night dayparts.
Before the pandemic, the brand attempted to reclaim its spot in the breakfast wars by rolling out a new value-based Toasted Breakfast Burrito Menu in March. But with more people working remotely due to COVID restrictions, the morning routine has disappeared. That’s especially key for Taco Bell, since its breakfast menu mixed around 10 percent pre-COVID. Yum! gave Taco Bell operators the option to pause breakfast in late March and adjust hours of operation as their market conditions see fit.
However, those declines in traffic aren’t deterring Taco Bell from bolstering its workforce. The chain announced in May that company-run stores, franchises, and licensed stores will hire at least 30,000 employees this summer. The brand said it will hire for existing positions at all levels in the restaurant, in addition to new roles responsible for monitoring the drive-thru, managing delivery, curbside pickup, and the mobile app, and maintaining proper sanitation.
Internationally, Yum! has seen greater struggles because of more temporary closures. In April, international comp sales dropped 40 percent at KFC and 30 percent at Pizza Hut. As more stores came online, those numbers improved to declines of 25 percent and 10 percent, respectively, in May.
Systemwide, KFC comps are down 26 percent, while Pizza Hut is sliding 10 percent and Taco Bell is declining 11 percent.
In early April, Yum! peaked at 11,000 closures when roughly 30 percent of international KFC stores and 25 percent of international Pizza Hut stores were shut down.
Since then, eased restrictions have allowed numerous restaurants to resume service. In the past week, the company saw more than 1,000 net reopenings. As of Tuesday, 5,000 of the company’s more than 50,000 locations are closed.
About 92 percent of North American units are open. The figure increases to 99 percent if express units are not counted, which are mostly under Pizza Hut.
In Asia, 97 percent of restaurants are open. In Africa, Europe, India, Latin America, the Middle East, and Russia, 78 percent of units are open.
"Trends have improved meaningfully in recent weeks, however, the COVID-19 pandemic continues to impact sales in numerous markets across the world, particularly in markets where we continue to experience significant temporary restaurant closures,” the company said in a filing. “As we have taken steps in response to the pandemic, our primary focus continues to be the safety of everyone who engages with our brands, including our employees, franchisees, and their team members, and customers.”