IT IS one of the biggest companies in one of the biggest industries in America. Its brand names litter the highways and high streets of the world. From its modest base in Louisville, Kentucky, it oversees the opening of three new restaurants, one of them in China, every day. Last year it earned pre-tax profits of $1 billion on sales of $9 billion. Yet few of its customers have ever heard of it.
But if they know KFC (previously Kentucky Fried Chicken), or Pizza Hut, or Taco Bell, then they know Yum! Brands. The parent of those three fast-food chains, it has 34,000 (mostly franchised) restaurants around the world, 2,000 more than McDonald's. At home in America it accounts for about 4% of all restaurant-industry sales, behind only McDonald's at 6.5%. With 1,378 KFC restaurants in China, and 201 Pizza Huts at mid-2005, Yum! owns two of the best-known brand names in the world's most populous market. Not bad going, you might say, for a company that Pepsi-Cola got rid of in 1997 because, in the words of one PepsiCo executive, "restaurants weren't our schtick".
When I first went to Europe and told people I grew up in Kentucky, I expected their immediate response to be "Kentucky Derby." No. It was always "Kentucky Fried Chicken." So that is what we are known for worldwide.
The article has some interesting analysis of Yum's various strategies. The latest is to put multiple brands in a single restaurant. It saves money by combining the kitchens into one, but I personally seem to have a psychological bias against such places. It just seems a step down, the way a Subway attached to a gas station never seems as good as one standalone. It's problemably all in my head, but I can't help but wonder how many others feel that way.