With the third quarter of 2023 in the rearview mirror, we checked in with Taco Bell, Pizza Hut and KFC – all owned by Yum! Brands. How have they performed in recent months? And how are they navigating what is proving to be a challenging time for the dining category?
Although the data presented here does not include all drive-thru and pick-up orders – and so does not represent the totality of foot traffic to Yum! Brands’ leading chains – these metrics still provide a strong indication of their performance and visitation trends.
Pizza Hut Keeps its Ear to the Ground
Pizza Hut has been finding success by keeping its finger on the pulse of what pizza lovers and other hungry consumers really want. Earlier this month, the chain put a smile on the faces of late-night snackers everywhere, when it announced plans to extend the hours for takeout and delivery orders at thousands of restaurants until midnight and beyond. The decision was taken as part of an effort to lean into the dining habits of younger consumers. And whether by diversifying its product selection, adding trendy flavors to its line-up, or experimenting with out-of-the box concepts like pickle pizza – nimble adaptation has long been at the heart of what Pizza Hut does best.
And this strategy has paid off for the pizzeria. While the QSR and Fast Food category saw visits drop 1.4% in Q3 2023 compared to the equivalent period of 2022, Pizza Hut experienced a year-over-year (YoY) quarterly visit increase of 6.4%. And between the months of April and September 2023, the brand experienced significant monthly foot traffic growth, both compared to 2022 and compared to 2021.
Taco Bell Wins Through Innovation
Taco Bell is also leading with menu innovation. The Mexican Pizza craze of May 2022 – ignited by the chain’s reintroduction of the popular menu item that had been discontinued during COVID – generated a visit spike for the ages. And though no product launch since has had quite the same impact on Taco Bell’s foot traffic, the brand is constantly working on new ways to please its customers. Like Pizza Hut, Taco Bell has taken steps to strengthen an underserved day slot – adding breakfast tacos to the morning menu it once famously apologized for. And from the alcohol-serving Cantinas that are catching on like wildfire to the chicken nuggets now being tested in the Twin Cities – the Tex-Mex leader always seems to have something up its sleeve.
Also like Pizza Hut, Taco Bell saw positive YoY foot traffic growth in Q3 2023, with visits up 3.0% from Q3 2022. And compared to a March 2022 baseline, visits to the brand increased 4.0% in September 2023 – leaving Taco Bell far ahead of other leading Mexican QSR chains.
KFC Ups its Weekly Game
KFC is another Yum! brand that’s all about keeping its menu fresh. From the famous chicken nuggets the chain added to its menu in March 2023, to the popular wraps that debuted in February and are slated to return next month – the chicken leader is constantly upping its game. And like its pickle-pizza-promoting sister brand, KFC isn’t afraid to go out on a limb with new products – including a Mac and Cheese Wrap that appears certain to raise at least some eyebrows.
And KFC’s leaned-in approach seems to be working. During the first two quarters of 2023, KFC saw impressive YoY foot traffic growth – with Q1 and Q2 visits up 10.9% and 11.1%, respectively. In Q3 2023 KFC’s upward trajectory stalled, and the chain experienced a quarterly visit gap of 2.9%. But drilling down into KFC’s YoY weekly data for the period between June - early October 2023 shows that the chain is getting back on track. After a mid-summer slump during which YoY weekly visits to KFC fell below the wider category baseline, the brand went back to outperforming QSR in September and into October.
For busy consumers juggling work, family, and other responsibilities, out-of-home meals can be an essential indulgence. And as the recent performance of leading Yum! chains shows, restaurants that can provide strong value propositions – while paying close attention to what their customers actually want – will always find their audiences. How will Pizza Hut, Taco Bell, and KFC continue to fare going into the holiday season? And how will the brands continue to drive traffic through innovation?