“Our goal was to figure out how to increase collaboration between the brands,” Hochman says. “With four brands operating locations in over 150 countries, we can take so much knowledge from one brand in one country and apply that system-wide. Our franchisees appreciate that this is a next-level advantage most companies don’t have.”
This kind of communication has allowed each brand to evolve quicker than they might have if they operated separately. For example, each has a different strength in terms of how customers get their food. While Taco Bell and KFC both do most of their business through the drive thru, Pizza Hut is best known for delivery and carryout service. Meanwhile, out of The Habit Burger’s 280 locations, only 52 operate drive thrus, yet lessons from those drive-thru stores influenced the way all the brands handle off-premises dining through the use of an app that prints tickets inside stores once guests arrive to pick up orders.
“When we heard about that, we said, ‘Why can’t Pizza Hut do the same?’” Hochman says. “We now have a ticket that prints out and says guests have arrived so that they don’t have to call and wait for a team member to answer the phone. This is also a huge relief to staff, who don’t have to stop what they are doing to answer.”
THE COVID-19 ROAD FOR YUM! SO FAR:
Each brand has also prioritized internal communication, particularly with franchisees. With more than 2,000 franchisees in the Yum system, these partners make up a significant portion of the business, and opening channels for discussion and feedback has been a critical step in gaining their support for new safety procedures.
“At Taco Bell, we have over 350 franchisees that all have their own opinions on how to handle this situation,” King says. “While it’s really necessary to be aligned at the Yum level with [four] brands, it’s also critical to be aligned with the franchise community.”
King says that throughout the pandemic, he’s had daily—and sometimes twice-daily—calls with the president of Taco Bell’s Franchise Management Advisory Council to discuss how to best roll out safety measures or simplify the menu to support store teams. Yum also lobbied the government for small-business aid on behalf of franchisees, in addition to offering financial advisors to assist them in applying for loans and providing financial advice.
Additionally, Yum set up a COVID-19 “core crisis team” to provide benefits to support franchisees who are struggling financially throughout the pandemic.
“We provided grace periods on royalties for those that needed them and deferrals on capital investments,” Gibbs says. “We made sure [franchisees] knew we would be there for them, and we would get through this as partners.”
Like much of the industry, each Yum brand has implemented new safety procedures that reduce touchpoints. King says Taco Bell, which already conducted 70 percent of its business through the drive thru, now features contactless payment, employees wearing masks, and food being delivered through the window on trays to minimize contact.
“Anytime big changes such as the pandemic happen, customer behavior changes, too,” Hochman says. “If you can get ahead of that behavior, you can win market share, so one of our top priorities has been letting customers and team members know that we have the safest restaurants in town.”