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Stock Story: Yum! Brands

Behind the success of the world’s most famous quick-service chicken restaurant, the world’s second-largest pizza chain and the US’s leading Mexican-style franchise sits Yum! Brands. With over 55,000 restaurants across more than 155 countries and territories, Yum! Brands is the world’s largest restaurant company by number of restaurants and second only to McDonald’s in total restaurant sales.

The iconic KFC, Pizza Hut and Taco Bell brands were originally brought together under consumer goods giant PepsiCo in the 1970s and 1980s as part of a series of acquisitions to diversify its business away from beverages. In 1997, PepsiCo announced it would be narrowing its focus back to its core beverages and snacks businesses and its fast-food unit would be spun off into an independent public company, ultimately named Yum! Brands.

Over the last 25 years, Yum! Brands has grown its global restaurant base by over 25,000 restaurants and has transformed from a US-centric company to a truly global business. It has also shifted its business model from owning and operating a portion of its restaurants to running an almost entirely franchised model, driving dual benefits of reduced risk and accelerated growth for shareholders.

Today, over 98% of KFC, Pizza Hut and Taco Bell outlets are operated by franchisee and licensee partners who deploy their own capital to open and operate restaurant outlets. These partners in turn pay Yum! Brands a royalty fee of approximately 5% of restaurant sales. In 2022, KFC, Pizza Hut and Taco Bell stores around the world generated US$60 billion in total system sales, resulting in US$3 billion in franchise revenue for Yum! Brands and contributing 90% of the company’s earnings. Franchise fee revenue is a high- margin, capital-light earnings stream that is insulated from labour and commodity costs increases. The accessible price point and strong value-for-money nature of fast food add to the predictability of this attractive earnings stream throughout economic cycles.

By geography, approximately half of Yum! Brands’ franchise revenue is now generated in international markets, including approximately 30% in fast-growing emerging markets like China, India, Southeast Asia and Latin America. While we have seen various misses from Yum! Brands and peers when trying to export US brands internationally, both KFC and Pizza Hut concepts have proven to have strong global appeal, with chicken and pizza products easily customised for local market tastes and preferences. Mexican-style Taco Bell, which is an outstanding business in its home US market, has proven harder to replicate internationally but is beginning to make inroads in markets like Spain, India, the UK, and China.

Despite significant growth and value creation delivered over the past few decades, there remains an exciting growth runway ahead for Yum! Brands, particularly in emerging markets where penetration of its brands remains low, consumer incomes are rising, and the existing restaurant landscape is highly fragmented and unsophisticated. Yum! Brands is targeting global system sales growth of 7% p.a. underpinned by new store growth of approximately 5% p.a. and modest growth in existing store sales through menu and marketing initiatives. The company has been running ahead of this net new store growth target, with over 100 countries contributing to global store growth of closer to 6% in recent years. Highly attractive payback periods on new stores and a more sophisticated and better-capitalised franchisee base relative to peers should prove key advantages to sustaining development in a higher interest rate environment.

Yum! Brands’ growth will also be increasingly powered by digital and technology. The company has spent the last few years investing heavily in areas like customer analytics, digital ordering, loyalty programs and back-of-house restaurant technologies, which will be shared across its global system to drive better customer experiences, sales performance and franchisee profitability. One of many examples is the company’s acquisition of Dragontail Systems in 2021 for approximately US$70 million. Dragontail is an AI-based technology that automates and optimises multiple Pizza Hut processes, from preparing the pizzas to dispatching product to delivery drivers and enabling customer tracking. In an increasingly digital world, we expect economies of scale on largely fixed-cost technology investments, as well as consumer data advantages from operating over 55,000 restaurants, to become increasingly important competitive differentiators relative to smaller restaurant players in the highly fragmented US$900 billion limited services restaurants industry.

Yum! Brands has a strong track record of ensuring its brands remain culturally relevant and loved. However, to ensure its brands can continue to grow sustainably, it will be important to manage food quality and nutrition risks as consumer preferences evolve, social risks as a large global employer and environmental risks as a large procurer of global agricultural and packaging products.

Yum! Brands remains a cornerstone of the Magellan Global portfolios, generating sustainable and defensive cash flows for investors.

By Emma Henderson, Investment Analyst
Sources: Company filings.

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