David Gibbs just signed
Yum brand Inc.
the first restaurant acquisition in years and is planning a convention for nearly 1,000 fast food franchisees worldwide when the pandemic cripples the global economy in March.
The sudden crisis threatens to wipe out most of the $ 17 billion that companies and franchisees make in annual dinner sales at all KFC, Taco Bell and Pizza Hut restaurants in more than 150 countries. Mr. Gibbs, a 31-year Yum veteran who became CEO a year ago, went from advancing the company’s expansion strategy to competing with thousands of closed restaurants.
Since then, many large fast food companies mostly recovered from the early pandemic close, and Yum’s comparable US sales rose in the third quarter from a year ago. But Mr. Gibbs said he was rethinking how Yum – which has more than 50,000 restaurants, more than any other fast food chain – could serve and deliver more food to carry over the long term.
He’s planning a future where pre-ordering fried chicken online is routine, and Pizza Hut customers can get their orders placed in their suitcases without having to walk into the restaurant.
Meanwhile, hundreds of his US Pizza Hut locations, most of which do dine-in businesses, have permanently closed.
The 57-year-old Gibb spoke to The Wall Street Journal via video from Yum’s largely vacant office in Plano, Texas. Below is an edited excerpt.
WSJ: What mistakes did Yum make at the start of the pandemic and how do you learn from them?
Mr. Gibbs: If I look back before the pandemic, I wish we had moved faster for Pizza Hut to be more delivery, run business and less dependent on on-site dining. We’ve talked about it for years. Sometimes large organizations can become bureaucratic. But I think we may be impressed even with ourselves in how fast we’ve spun.
“ I didn’t know that normal appearance was exactly like before the pandemic. Consumers may be more aware of cleanliness in restaurants, and we are looking for new ways to provide a safe environment. ‘
WSJ: Drive-through has helped many fast food chains stay busy during a pandemic. How does that affect your development plans?
Mr. Gibbs: We’re working on a design that has multiple drive-throughs. The Australian business began building several test units with five drive-throughs in one building.
But the other part of the story is the roadside execution. You see it not only in the restaurant industry, but also in retail. This is good because of our peak drive-through constraints. No matter how hard you ride, you can still fit only X cars in a row.
WSJ: Should the front line workers get food and restaurant early access to vaccines?
Mr. Gibbs: We are very excited about this vaccine. When it’s my turn, I’ll be in line to get it. We hope all our employees get it. But we do know that there are others, such as frontline healthcare workers, who are ahead of us in the queue.
WSJ: Once a vaccine is more universally available, will you ask employees to get it or have your franchisor consider it?
Mr. Gibbs: We are studying the matter right now and haven’t made any decisions yet. It is important to remember that 98% of our stores are run by these franchisees. So it’s more complex than we just mandating that every store needs to get a vaccine.
WSJ: Even when vaccines start rolling out, it’s unclear when life will begin to return to normal. When did you anticipate this to happen in fast food?
Mr. Gibbs: I didn’t know that normal appearance was exactly like before the pandemic. Consumers may be more aware of cleanliness in restaurants, and we are looking for new ways to provide a safe environment.
WSJ: What management actions have you taken that will survive the pandemic?
Mr. Gibbs: One of the biggest lessons I learned is the power of authentic communication versus the formal written memos someone might send. We bring together various groups of franchisees, corporate teams from around the world in video calls. We get hundreds of questions via the chat function – real time, without filters. We learn from that.
WSJ: Do you support a $ 15 minimum wage at the federal level and for your employer and franchisees?
Mr. Gibbs: We support the national minimum wage, and we will work under whatever minimum wage the government makes.
WSJ: How do you expect the dynamics between the CEO and the White House to shift in the new government?
Mr. Gibbs: We are excited to work with the Biden government and share their goal of building back better especially on the economy and fighting inequality. We have been in more than a hundred countries around the world for decades – we have operated in any political environment.
WSJ: The pandemic’s theme is menu simplification, but some customers say Taco Bell went too far in removing options. Were you surprised by the commotion when Taco Bell removed Mexican Pizza?
Mr. Gibbs: I’ve never been surprised by the passion our customers – especially Taco Bell – have for our iconic products. We can always bring back the Mexican Pizza at some point if the request is there.
WSJ: What is your pandemic tranquillizer?
Mr. Gibbs: I often pass through Taco Bell drive-throughs. We introduced grilled cheese burritos during a pandemic, and that’s the definition of a product that was so coveted for me and my college son.
Write to Heather Haddon at [email protected]
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