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Yum! Brands: A global trifecta

Kai Ryssdal Jan 11, 2012

Kai Ryssdal: Yum! Brands, out of Louisville, Ky., runs a virtual trifecta of fast food. They own Kentucky Fried Chicken, Pizza Hut and Taco Bell. And they run ’em all over the world. More than 35,000 restaurants in more than 100 countries.

David Novak is the chairman and CEO of Yum! Brands. Mr. Novak, good to have you with us.

David Novak: It’s great to be here.

Ryssdal: Let me ask you the first question first: How’s business?

Novak: Well, you know, our business is — we just came off a very strong year. Our earnings per share growth will be at least 13 percent. So that’s the 10th straight year that we’ve had at least that kind of performance. So we feel good about that. And we’re going into 2012 very, very optimistic.

Ryssdal: You sound — I must say — like a man whose never heard the word recession.

Novak: Well, you know, we never really look at the economy as any kind of excuse for performance. One of the good things about our industry — in quick service in particular — our food is always affordable, it’s always convenient. You know, it fits in peoples lives. So, you know, we don’t take on any excuses.

Ryssdal: Fair enough, I mean, you can’t have any excuses I suppose, right?

Novak: Well it doesn’t do you much good. You kind of have to deal with the cards that you dealt with.

Ryssdal: Well, where do you grow though? I mean, you guys are — market saturation is a little thick of a phrase — but you have to look long and hard to find a place that doesn’t have a Yum Brands store in it — whether it’s Pizza Hut, KFC or a Taco Bell.

Novak: Well, what we’re blessed to have is a business that 75 percent of our profits now come outside of the United States. We have 4,000 restaurants in China, we just made a new division in India — ’cause high growth in India. Africa is really taking off for us. We see ourselves as a global business with lots of global growth ahead.

Ryssdal: Well, so I’ll tell you, you mentioned China. I was there last summer and it’s almost like it is here. You can’t turn around without hitting a Pizza Hut.

Novak: Actually we have 3,500 KFCs there. We outnumber McDonald’s 3 to 1 there. Now the big news — and you bring it up — is that Pizza Hut is really taking off.

Ryssdal: Can I tell you a quick story?

Novak: Sure.

Ryssdal: When I was there in Beijing in 1996, we went to the local Pizza Hut — my wife and I — and we couldn’t get in. There was actually a red velvet thing because you have to make reservations at Pizza Hut.

Novak: Well, the place is always packed.

Ryssdal: When do you decide enough is enough?

Novak: I think there is always unfinished business. You know, there is tremendous opportunity to grow. When you look at our business in the United State, for example, when you take our three brands — Pizza Hut, Taco Bell and KFC –we have 60 restaurants per million people. In China it’s only three. In India it’s less than three. In South Africa it’s less than three. So unlike a lot of companies where you’re wondering where you’re going to get your next little bit of growth, we look at the world — seriously — as our oyster in terms of opportunities as we move ahead.

Ryssdal: Before I let you go, how many times a week do you figure you eat at KFC or Taco Bell or over at Pizza Hut?

Novak: I probably eat our food on average four or five times a week.

Ryssdal: Do you get it on the house or do you pay for it?

Novak: I try to pay for it wherever I go.

Ryssdal: Fair enough.

Novak: Look, our guys out in the field, they’re working hard to get those sales so I might as well help them out.

Ryssdal: David Novak, the chairman and CEO of Yum! Brands, thanks very much for your time.

Novak: Thank you very much.

Ryssdal: Read an excerpt of David Novak’s new book, “Taking People with You.”

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