David Gibbs had just signed Yum Brands Inc.’s first restaurant acquisition in years and was planning a convention for nearly 1,000 of its fast-food franchisees world-wide when the pandemic crippled the global economy in March.
Suddenly the crisis threatened to wipe out much of the $17 billion the company and its franchisees generate in annual dine-in sales across KFC, Taco Bell and Pizza Hut restaurants in more than 150 countries. Mr. Gibbs, a 31-year Yum veteran who became chief executive officer a year ago, went from advancing the company’s expansion strategy to contending with thousands of closed restaurants.
Many large fast-food companies have since largely rebounded from the early pandemic shutdowns, and Yum’s U.S. comparable sales rose in the third quarter from a year ago. But Mr. Gibbs says he is rethinking how Yum—which has upward of 50,000 restaurants, more than any other fast-food chain—can serve and deliver more to-go food longer term.
He is plotting a future where ordering fried chicken ahead online is routine, and Pizza Hut customers can get their orders placed in their trunks without having to enter a restaurant.
Meanwhile, hundreds of its U.S. Pizza Hut locations that mostly did dine-in business have closed permanently.