Just as the dining space was beginning to recover from the COVID pandemic, the ongoing inflation brought a fresh set of challenges to the sector in 2022 and 2023. How did the headwinds impact Burger King, Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen, Taco Bell, KFC, and other leading brands from the RBI and Yum! Portfolio? We dove into the data to find out.
RBI & Yum! 2023 Foot Traffic Recap
Restaurant Brands International (RBI) and Yum! Brands each own three QSR banners along with one fast-casual chain. RBI owns the Burger King, Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen, and Tim Hortons brands as well as fast-casual sub chain Firehouse Subs. Yum! Brands operates the KFC, Pizza Hut, and Taco Bell fast-food banners and the fast-casual The Habit Burger Grill.
Both companies’ banners saw year-over-year (YoY) growth in Q1 2023, likely aided by favorable comparisons to an Omicron-plagued Q1 2022. And although traffic dropped off as the year went on – perhaps due to consumers cutting back on dining out – the dip was subdued, with visits staying relatively close to 2022 levels.
RBI’s banners ended the year with just a 2.5% YoY dip in Q4 2023, although Firehouse Subs, Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen, and Tim Hortons all saw positive visit growth for three out of four quarters of 2023.
Following three quarters of YoY visit growth for the Pizza Hut banner and for the company as a whole, Yum! Brands also began feeling the impact of the consumer spending contraction, with the company’s Q4 2023 foot traffic performance 3.7% lower, on average, than in 2022.
Who Visits Yum! and RBI Banners?
The wider QSR space tends to serve trade areas composed of Census Block Groups with an overall median household income (HHI) that is lower than the median HHI nationwide ($63.2K for QSR compared with $69.5K nationwide). And the median HHI in the trade areas of Pizza Hut, Taco Bell, KFC, Burger King, Tim Hortons, and Popeyes is even lower than the median HHI in the wider QSR space.
The relatively low median HHI in the trade areas of RBI and Yum! Brands’ QSR banners means that visitors to these chains may be feeling particularly frugal, which could explain the slight dips in foot traffic towards the end of 2023.
But some of these brands are already implementing changes to woo back their budget-conscious customers. Taco Bell recently unveiled a new value menu that includes some items priced at $1.99, and several other chains in the Yum! and RBI portfolio have launched national campaigns advertising wallet-friendly promotions – which may well bring foot traffic back up in 2024.
Yum! & RBI QSR Banners Draw More Singles
QSR chains seem particularly attractive to singles, with the trade area of the average QSR brand containing a larger share of one-person and non-family (roommate) households compared to the nationwide average (33.8% to 33.2%). And analyzing the household composition of the QSR banners of RBI and Yum! reveals that the trade areas of these brands tend to include an even larger share of one-person and non-family households than the wider QSR industry. (Pizza Hut is the sole exception, with one-person and non-family households making up 33.6% of households in its trade area – slightly less than the QSR industry average of 33.8%, but still more than the nationwide average of 33.2%.)
The trade areas of QSR brands also tend to include a greater share of large households (households of four or more people) compared to the percentage of 4+ person households nationwide. But Yum! And RBI banners (with the exception of Popeyes) seem to serve fewer 4+ person households compared to the QSR average (although Pizza Hut, Taco Bell, KFC, Burger King, and Tim Hortons still have more 4+ person households in the trade areas compared to the nationwide average.)
This trade area demographic data could help Yum! and RBI plan their 2024 promotions – discounts on larger orders could be particularly appealing to Popeyes diners, but may not necessarily drive demand among the visitor base of the other QSR banners. At the same time, all brands analyzed may benefit from offering value-priced individual items that can help singles living alone or with roommates budget smartly.
RBI & Yum! In 2024
With food-away-from-home prices expected to increase in 2024, chains that offer low-cost options are likely to see a resurgence – and RBI and Yum! may well benefit from consumers’ continued thriftiness.