Yum Brands Inc. (Louisville, Ky.) has announced plans to introduce a new grilled option in KFC units across the country next year in an attempt to lift lagging sales in the U.S.
The Kentucky Grilled Chicken, which will hit nationwide stores after the longest market test in KFC history. “This product will be a major transformational product for us, that it’s not the same KFC,” said chairman and ceo David Novak.
KFC introduced grilled products in the past but couldn’t sustain an initial sales upturn because of operational or marketing factors, Novak said. He predicted this rollout will have lasting, positive results. “We have a winning concept.”
Yum predicted continued strong growth in its international business, led by its China operations. The company, whose brands also include Taco Bell, Pizza Hut, Long John Silver’s and A&W All-American Food, said it expects to open at least 500 new restaurants in its China division next year, compared to a forecast of 550 openings this year. In its international division, new unit openings are forecast to reach at least 900 next year, even or slightly ahead of this year’s pace.
The company also predicted 15 percent growth in U.S. operating profit next year, a projection that includes $60 million in cost savings from refranchising efforts. Excluding those savings, ongoing operating profit is expected to rise 5 percent next year. Novak said KFC’s slump in the U.S. was performance-related, noting that Pizza Hut and Taco Bell had a good year. “We haven’t created enough value, we haven’t created enough product news,” he said of KFC. “And as a result of that, KFC has been a drag on our overall performance this year in the United States.”